Reporting Jim Williams
CHICAGO (CBS) – A young Chicago woman’s dream of a future as a doctor has been put on hold, after disastrous conditions while she took a licensing exam led to her just barely failing the test.
CBS 2’s Jim Williams reports the conditions in the downtown testing room the day Amber Price took her exam were a recipe for failure, but so far she hasn’t been allowed to retake the test without paying for it again.
Price was once a social worker, who decided to become a physician to help the mentally ill.
“I saw there was a great need for psychiatry, particularly in nursing homes,” Price said.
She got into medical school at the University of Illinois at Chicago, even while taking care of a baby girl at home.
On July 25, she went to a Loop high-rise to take the first step of the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam.
She said she worked hard and studied hard to pass the exam, but she described disastrous conditions in the building as she took the test.
First, an alarm went off repeatedly during the exam.
“Every time I read a question, I had to keep re-reading it, because I was so concentrated on the alarm going off,” she said.
City officials said there was a fire in the building, bad enough to send four people to the hospital. But Price said she was never aware of an actual fire.
“I did not find that out till today,” she said on Wednesday.
In addition, the building’s air conditioning was shut off, on a day when it was 99 degrees in Chicago.
Price failed the eight hour exam by the slimmest margin.
“I missed passing by one point,” she said.
She appealed to the National Board of Medical Examiners, asking for her score to be cancelled, and requesting to take the exam again free of charge.
She was turned down, even though the board’s own handbook says “external disruptions such as … fire alarms and room temperature … can cause distress and distraction to examinees.”
Price said she now she has to pay another $500 to take the test again. Until then, she cannot move on to her third year of medical school.
“I just immediately thought of my family, and I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to provide for them,” she said.
Price said she’d never failed anything before, that she’s always done well in her classes.
The National Board of Medical Examiners said in an email that, “any time an examinee experiences less than optimal conditions, the board investigates, and remedies are made available.”
However, so far, Price has not been offered any remedy, other than paying another $500 to take the test again.
The situation could hurt her ability to get the medical residency that she’s seeking.