Thursday, September 27, 2007

Med Student Catches a Break

A 33-year-old Harvard student taking a medical licensing exam is causing quite a stir right now.

Here's a story.

It seems the woman, who has a 4-month-old daughter, sued the National Board of Medical Examiners because it denied her request for more break time to pump breast milk.

It seems the test, which is 9 hours, only allowed for 45 minutes' worth of break time. The woman, who is taking the test so she can begin her residency, contended that she was at a disadvantage to other test-takers because if she did not pump her breast milk she would be in pain.

A Massachusetts appeals court has now ruled that the woman must be given extra break time. The board says it will appeal, to maintain the "integrity of the exam," but if its appeal is not heard by the time the woman takes the test, she can have the extra break time.

All this is fine and dandy -- I'm unsure that it's really fair to allow anyone to bend rules when it comes to test-taking, because it seems like what was allegedly a disadvantage suddenly becomes an advantage.

But the part that really makes me uneasy is that, at the end of the story, it's revealed that the woman "already received some accommodation from the board for dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. She can take the test over two days instead of one, for example."

To me, the whole breast-pumping issue seems unimportant compared to that.

I'm not sure I'd be comfortable being treated by someone who is not only dyslexic, but also has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Understand, I'm not criticizing the woman for conditions she has no control over. It's good that she can overcome her own physical shortcomings -- at least to an extent. But, at some point doesn't someone have to ask if those conditions would hamper her ability as a medical professional?

I don't know about you, but if I go to the hospital, I really, really want whoever is treating me to be able to read my chart correctly and pay attention to what they're doing.

Just a thought.

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