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National Board of Medical Examiners Won’t Give Breast Feeding Mom Extra Time to Pump During Her Exam

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Imagine this: You have a 7 week old baby. 7 weeks. She eats all the time, around the clock. But you’ve got a huge test to take. You’re a doctor (not to mention, you also have a PhD), and the test is required in order to move on to the next stage of your career. The test takes all day, but your baby needs to eat. And if you can’t actually breastfeed her, you need to pump. So you ask the folks running the exam to make a special accommodation to help you. Their answer– No.
That’s what happened to Sophie Currier of Brookline, Massachusetts. Here are some snippets from the story in today’s Boston Globe.
For Currier to begin her medical residency at Massachusetts General Hospital this fall as scheduled, she must pass the clinical knowledge exam run by the National Board of Medical Examiners by August. The exam is nine hours long and allows a total of only 45 minutes in breaks….
…When she called the board last week to ask for extra break time, she said she was told that the test provides special accommodations only for disabilities covered by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, and breast-feeding was not one of them.
Currier agreed that breast-feeding is not a disability. But it is physically demanding : “What am I going to do, express milk all over your computer?” she asked a board official.
In a statement faxed to the Globe, Catherine Farmer, the board’s manager of disability services, wrote that the disabilities act “does not cover temporary conditions, such as pregnancy. . . . Furthermore, lactation, breast-feeding and breast pumping are not disabilities as defined by the ADA.”
However, she added, examinees could use their break time outside the testing room for breast pumping, and if they finished sections of the test early, they could gain extra time for break…
…In a letter (Currier) is drafting to the medical board, she is going to request an extra 20 minutes of break time per day, she said — the minimum she thinks she can manage.

We hear stories all the time of moms who run into trouble feeding their babies in restaurants, stores, and airplanes. But this one just takes the cake. A group of medical professionals– The National Board of Medical Examiners– a group that should know better than any other the importance of breastfeeding, is putting a new mom and her newborn in a difficult situation.
Good for Currier, for standing up to them, and taking her story to the media. Here’s to hoping she gets some help and The Board comes to its senses.



6 Responses to “National Board of Medical Examiners Won’t Give Breast Feeding Mom Extra Time to Pump During Her Exam”

I am a licensed CPA. As someone who has sat through her fair share of grueling exams, things like this are SO disheartening. As it is, she is preparing for this exam while taking care of a newborn – then she has to fight for the right to keep her milk supply intact!?!? I can’t imagine the stress.

This is simply disgusting. And surely it is a breach of her baby’s human rights… Apart from anything else, the mom is likely to get extremely engorged. Surely something can be done to prevent this whole ridiculous situation!

Denying mothers time to breastfeed their infants is a surefire way to keep down the numbers of women in medicine. Grrrr!

That’s insane. And wrong. And unfair. Let’s just make it that much harder for women to breastfeed.
I suppose she could bring in a cup and hand express while testing. Perhaps just the threat of that would bring them to their senses. Sigh.

I would be tempted to take my electric pump in the exam room…

I would recommend preparing early at home with filling the baby bottles /with or without your own milk is up to you. Still concentrate on taking your test.Right now you have stress and added stress of th not being allowed to feed is just obsene in general for the health community to not allow this.Its a matter of practice what you preach I suppose. Which I would find out from other (Doctors) how they made it through the testing with children as well.

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