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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Hearing put off in nursing mother's suit against medical exam board

By Felicia Mello, Globe Correspondent

The case of a Brookline woman who is suing for extra break time to pump breast milk during the licensing exam to become a doctor has been removed to federal court, meaning a previously scheduled state court hearing this afternoon will not take place.

A hearing has been set for tomorrow at 2 p.m. to decide whether the federal court will hear the case before Sophie Currier, 33, is scheduled to take the test September 24 and 25.

Currier, a Harvard Medical School student who is breastfeeding her 4-month-old daughter, filed suit against the National Board of Medical Examiners in state court last week, saying the 45 minutes of free time allowed over the course of the nine-hour exam was not enough for her to expel milk in addition to eating and using the restroom.

The board has refused to grant Currier the extra time but has offered to supply her with a private room in which to pump the milk during scheduled breaks.

The case was transferred to the US District Court at the request of lawyers for the medical board.

Christine Smith Collins, Currier’s attorney, said the removal "could be viewed as a delay tactic by the board trying to push off a decision until after she's taken the exam, so she can’t get the relief that she’s seeking."

But medical board attorney Joseph Savage said he made the request because Currier’s major argument was that her civil rights had been violated, a claim more appropriately heard by a federal judge.

Currier, a Brookline resident, has started a blog, called Support Nursing Moms, in hopes of reaching other women in similar circumstances.

"I am fighting because I don't have a choice," she said today, "but I feel passionate about it because I feel I could influence how other nursing mothers are treated as well."

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