« The Daily Memo - 10/1/07 | Main | The Dipshit Principle »

Pump It Up

ae35f4db6f_ltp091907breast.jpgSo, last week, the continuing saga of a 33-year-old Harvard Medical student finally came to a conclusion after an appeals court overturned a lower court decision ruling that Sophie Currier could not have extra time during her medical licensing exam to pump breast milk for her four-month-old daughter (the medical board is appealing).

Now, for the many of you — like myself — who have been following this story but have never actually read past the headlines, you were probably shocked (shocked!) when the lower court ruled that Currier couldn’t have the extra time. As the husband of a nursing mother, I was appalled, thinking this was just like typical male judges who don’t understand shit about breast-feeding or the pain and inflammation that occurs if a nursing mother doesn’t pump regularly.

But last night I finally read an entire story. Turns out, because of her ADHD and other special needs (dyslexia), Currier had already been granted permission to take the 9-hour exam over two days (while most med students have to take it in one day); that she, like regular med students, had already been alloted 45-minute breaks; and that, because she was taking it over two days, she would be taking it in a private room where she’d be able to pump during the exam.

So, after knowing all of that, am I perturbed with the appeals court’s decision to grant Currier an extra 15 minutes on top of her 45-minute break?

No … not at all.

Why? Well, because everybody gets 45-minute breaks. And, it doesn’t matter that she’s already been granted permission to take the test over two days for her ADHD disability, she should be given a level playing field: If men and non-lactating women take 45 minutes to use the restroom, eat their lunch, and take care of their business, it’s only fair that lactating women get at least an extra 15 minutes to do the same things that everyone else does plus pump breast milk. A woman should not be penalized for being a good mother.

Granted, Currier is just about the worst test case imaginable — ADHD being a specious disability, as it is; I mean, seriously, there’s medication for that, right? — but that doesn’t change the simple fact that lactating women are put at a significant disadvantage. It’s just too bad that Currier is the poster-mother for this case because it’s gonna give men everywhere a fall-back argument against her position, and it’s not an argument without some bite to it. It just so happens to have absolutely nothing to do with her right — or the right of all nursing moms — to have extra time for nursing during the exam.

So, while I’m not jumping for joy that Currier is going to be given scads of extra time to take her licensing exam, I am pleased that future lactating mothers should be given extra time to pump, thus leveling the field at least a little bit (of course, it doesn’t take into account the fact that the woman is having to study for the boards while taking care of an infant, but there’s not much that can be done about that).

| Comments (8)


That's a typo, right? Tell me she's not pumping milk for a 4-year-old. By 4 years old, the child should be weaned and converted over to mostly (light) beer.

Oopsie. Thanks. -- DR

How does being a mother who breast feeds and is given extra time for an exam, a right? I don't remember ever seeing that in the Constitution. So she is given extra time and she passes her exam and is granted her medical license. Sometime in the future, she has another child and is also breast feeding. Let’s say for arguments sake, she is in the middle of a medical procedure but it comes time for her to "pump", should she put her patient at risk so she can pump? Or maybe, I don't know, this is just a suggestion, but shouldn't take care of that before and after her exams? Maybe she should be a really good mother and stay at home for a little while longer with her child. Since the implied argument is being made about the health benefits for nursing children using breast milk, then an argument can also be made for staying home with her child until, said child, is 5 years old. If she wants to be a good mother, then all the evidence supports staying at home until her child is 5 years old. If she really wants to give her child the best start in live, then look at the evidence. There have been countless studies proving this point.

Other wise, to become a physician requires a greater level of commitment, education, and training, it does not require a level playing field. This isn't grade school, this is her medical exams, to become a freakin' doctor. You don't down-grade the playing field of an important piece of this equation. If she cannot make proper scheduling plans for her own life, how will she be able to handle the pressure of her inter and residency years. Or if she has a waiting room full of patients, who expect her to rise above her personal problems by providing proper medical care that she has taken an oath to provide. For crying out loud, let’s grow a brain here. Ok, she got an extra 15 minutes, I don't think anybody really has a problem for this, but an extra day for the exam. If she has such a sever case of ADHD, wtf, is she doing becoming a doctor? Maybe she should go be a lawyer instead.

Bravo. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Poster child she ain't--but at least the issue is getting some air time.

Having nursed two kids myself, I can tell you that I am amazed at how time consuming it was. I did it for their health, but a picnic it wasn't. And, mastitis, the end result of not nursing or expressing regularly is anything but a picnic. I only had it once and it sucked. (no pun intended!)

Am I the only person who wouldn't want an ADHD doctor? I sort of want my doctor to be, well, on the ball the whole time.

If she is nursing, can she even take her ADHD pills? I mean I got a roommate that has to take a crap ton of pills and just reading the bottle warnings makes me nervous to handle them. I mean, maybe her ADHD is completely treatable, but since she is nursing she can't take the pills. Kind of makes sense that she would need time for the various things. Chances are she is normally find on meds.

I think I'd be more concerned about having a doctor with dyslexia. Don't get me wrong, I am all for helping people with disabilities lead the most normal life possible, and this woman seems to have overcome a lot in her life, but there are some things that you just can't do. A blind person will never be a bus driver. I'm sure there are varying degrees of dyslexia, and ways to try to control it, but still, if a doctor reads or writes an order incorrectly, there can be very bad results.

An example of the consequences of dyslexia and drug names:


I'm a little late to this game, but you might want to re-read the decision. Not 15 extra minutes. 60. She gets the 45 minutes, plus 60 additional minutes. It seems odd that the court would know her needs better than the medical board. The court also indicated that she needed the time so that she wouldn't have to choose between bathroom and eating or nursing. I agree, if she was taking the exam in 9 hours, on one day. But she has already gotten permissions to account for her disabilities, and will take the exam over two days. I can wait to eat for 4.5 hours.

Note that she already took the exam once, but missed passing by a few points. I don't know if she applied for all of the time breaks last time, but it certainly sounds like she's working to get every bit she can, now.

On the other hand, as a former professor (make of that what you will), I found that many students who ask for more time are simply trying to fit their round ideas into square questions. More time just gave them bigger bruises when they kept hitting that wall... . It all comes out in the wash.