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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Breast-feeding medical student to take licensing test tomorrow

By Elizabeth Cooney, Globe Correspondent

A Harvard medical student who went to court to get extra time to pump breast milk during a licensing exam will start taking the test tomorrow.

Sophie Currier, who is breast-feeding her 5-month-old daughter, sued the National Board of Medical Examiners on Sept. 5 when it refused to give her more than the usual 45-minute break allowed to students taking the nine-hour exam. Since then the case has gone through seven rulings.

Today the Supreme Judicial Court denied a request from the board for an expedited review of the case after a state Appeals Court ruling on Friday cleared the way for Currier to have the extra time. The examination board had also asked for a single justice to hear an appeal, but the court did not rule on that petition, board spokeswoman Carol Thomson said in an interview.

"Sophie Currier is scheduled to take the test tomorrow and the following day," Thomson said. "The board certainly will comply with the court's requirements and she will take the test with extra time."

Currier, who must pass the test before beginning her residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, has been granted permission to take the test over two days because of her dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. She will get an hour of extra break time each day.

The 33-year-old Brookline resident had argued that it would be uncomfortable and possibly harmful to her health if she could pump breast milk only during standard breaks.

Currier was unavailable to comment today, her spokeswoman Alex Zaroulis said.

"Sophie is looking forward to taking the test tomorrow. She's focused, she's prepared," Zaroulis said. "This has all been about Sophie being able to take this test and be able to express milk while she takes the test in a humane and sanitary way."

One of her lawyers said she found it troubling that the organization responsible for licensing doctors continues to take such an "anti-female approach."

"We took this case pro bono because we believed strongly in the legal positions that were set forth regarding a nursing mother's right in the workplace and by extension, a nursing mother's right to be able to become a doctor and take the medical exam without being at risk for physical harm," said Lauren Stiller Rikleen, who worked on the case with Christine Smith Collins of the law firm Bowditch & Dewey.

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 06:45 PM
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