Sunday, September 16, 2007


Sophie Currier, recent graduate of Harvard's prestigious MD-PhD program, has a dilemma. She is due to start her medical residency at Mass General Hospital later this fall, but first must pass the 9-hour National Board of Medical Examiners clinical knowledge exam. The problem is that the 45 minutes of breaks allowed during the test will not provide Ms. Currier, who is breastfeeding her 4-month-old, enough time to pump her breast milk.

She asked the Board for 20 minutes of extra break time (some stories say 60 extra minutes), but they said no. She has filed a law suit, which is pending. [News stories:1, 2, 3]

Now, as a woman, mother (a terrible, evil mother who didn't breast feed her kids, but a mother nonetheless) and bleeding-heart liberal, I really wanted to support Ms. Currier on this.

But I don't.

Sure, the Board should just give her the friggin' 20 extra minutes. Who the hell cares? It's not like she's going to use the extra time to peek in her medical text books to find answers to the test questions. But that's not the point. The point is that I can't support Ms. Currier because her story irks me.

Never mind that she's already getting extra time to take the text - two days instead of one - because she has dyslexia and ADHD.

And never mind that she talks about pursuing a combined MD-PhD degree and having two kids in the process like we're supposed to care that she hit an unexpected bump along the way to her pre-planned dream life.

Combined degree students in general face a serious problem of being in their mid thirties and thus wanting to have children before they have completed medical school or residency. Many face trying to have children during the residency program which require over 80 hours a week of work. My partner and I decided to avoid pregnancy during residency by having our children during my last years of medical school. I had never realized that nursing a child would interfere with... taking the United States Medical Licensing Exam. Sophie Currier's blog

What gets me is that Ms. Currrier only finds herself in this situation at all because she flunked the licensing exam the first time she took it.


'Nuff said.

September 19, 2007--Update: The judge who heard Ms. Currier’s case decided that extra break time was not warranted. Ms. Currier’s lawyers plan to appeal to a higher court before her September 24-25 test date. [Boston Globe, 9/19/2007]

Meanwhile, because I dared suggest that Ms. Currier’s situation was of her own making, descriptors that have been tossed my way include ignorant, sarcastic and hostile. (How exciting! I’ve never been called hostile before. Ignorant and sarcastic, yes, but hostile represents a new pinnacle of achievement.) I stand by what I wrote. This story is not about gender discrimination, nor about nursing women in the workplace. (By Ms. Currier's admission, she had no problem breastfeeding during her clinical rotations.) This is about one woman who made her bed, but now refuses to sleep in it.

September 23, 2007--Update: An appeals court has agreed to hear Ms. Currier's case and a hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, September 25. Ms. Currier opted to postpone her September 24-25 exam date pending the outcome of the appeal. [Boston Globe, 9/21/2007]

September 26, 2007--Update: Giving renewed hope to people everywhere who file frivolous lawsuits, an appeals court judge ruled today that Ms. Currier must be granted extra break time during the exam in order to 'put her on equal footing with her non-lactating female and male peers.' But now the National Board of Medical Examiners plans to appeal. I wonder if there's time for this case to make it all the way to the US Supreme Court before October 4-5, when Ms. Currier is scheduled to take the exam. [Boston Herald, 9/26/2007]

On a related note, Ms. Currier deleted the original whoa-is-me post from her blog (a section of which was quoted above, in my original post) and all the accompanying comments, most (though not all) of which were against her request for extra break time. In its place is a generic post - with comments disabled - mentioning some reasons why Ms. Currier thinks giving accommodations to nursing mothers is important. Her blog, her right, of course, but interesting nevertheless. (Thanks to ~Vital~ for bringing this to my attention.)


Amber said...

I agree with you. Besides, my aunt pumped her breastmilk for all four of her kids because she was working and had to leave them with the babysitter (i.e. Me).

I don't see the reason as to why she couldn't pump her milk BEFORE HAND. Then use it all forty-five minutes of her other breaks, refridgerating in the meantime.

I don't know. Yeah, the board sucks ass for not being a little more helpful but still... she should use her head.

joy said...

Why must we be so litigious? As for Ms Currier, hasn't she heard of Wonder Woman and Supergirl? We're women, for crying out loud. We are equipped to plan ahead and be resourceful. Asking for so many considerations just underscore the jabs we've been receiving from the opposite sex. We can't ask for equality and then turn around and ask people to cut us some slack.

Your Love Coach

~Vital~ said...

I think "baby blues" have shorted out her brain waves. The test is suppost to find wither you are competent or not...she is clearly showing at this time she is not. There will be real life issues that will come up later on during her practice that she will not get "a break" on, how will she handle that crunch time? This is my 2 cents on the issue. I think she is out of her tree.

~Vital~ said...

she turned her comments off on her site. Too funny.

~Vital~ said...

now her blog is only open to invited bloggers...I think she must have regrets and totally rethinking having ever put herself out there.