How Do Doctors Use Math in Their Jobs?

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If you're considering a career as a physician because you love science, math had better be close to your heart as well – and not just for biological reasons. No matter which medical specialty you choose, chances are excellent that you will use math virtually every day in the course of treating patients.

The Big Picture

  • Nothing can substitute for an effective bedside manner and sharp listening skills, but math and numbers shed a different and necessary light on the true nature of a patient's health and well being. Doctors regularly analyze numbers, make computations and employ statistics. For example, they assess a patient's medical history, including his height, weight, blood pressure and blood cell counts. According to the Math Central website, doctors also use math "when drawing up statistical graphs of epidemics or success rates of treatments." Math skills also are important when analyzing X-rays and CAT scans.

Math Under the Microscope

  • Many doctors write prescriptions – a function that requires myriad math skills, including addition, subtraction and multiplication. Doctors must evaluate a patient's weight before prescribing the proper dosage in milligrams as well as the appropriate frequency – say, from one to three times a day. They must then order enough medication so that it lasts until the patient's next appointment.

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