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The Math Career Path: Math in the Medical World

It’s a common complaint from math students all over the world, learning a new concept or practicing a particularly tricky one: “But when am I going to use this?”

While every student may not use every facet and formula from their math education on a daily basis when they reach the working world, we emphasize at Mentorhood that teaching math is about far more than simply teaching calculable numerical solutions.

Math and intuition are self-reinforcing: teaching math intuitively empowers students to smoothly advance to more complicated math topics―and the more mathematically a student can fluently think, the more intuition, critical thinking, pattern recognition, and analysis skills become second nature.

It’s those soft skills, paired with a mathematically logical framework for thinking, that fuel some of the highest paying careers in today’s modern economies. And globally, there’s no industry with a greater association to higher pay than the medical industry.

Math in Medicine?

From dentistry to surgery to anesthesiology, there is no doubt that the field of medicine boasts of highly skilled, highly specialized, and highly paid professionals. And up to a certain degree, the specialists of today’s medical sector share a similar educational background: a rigorous post-graduate medical degree, undergraduate studies that equip them to pass the competitive application process to medical school, and primary and secondary studies at a public or private institution, when they were just regular kids in regular classes.

While science is the primary academic thrust of medical training, math is inarguably linked to that science in a critical way. Many math and science studies are inseparable at the post-secondary level and are often packaged together on admission requirements. But why are they so connected when it comes to medical science? Don’t medical professionals need biology a lot more than binomials?

The Mathematical Foundations of Medical Science

The average emergency or family physician might draw on their years of studying, recognizing, and diagnosing biological anomalies a lot more than they draw on what they remember from high school calculus. But no branch of medicine can be separated from the math that helped it come to be.

Anesthesiology is the study of how anesthetics affect the human body. Working with something like anesthetics can have grave consequences if it is not administered properly. Every patient brings a unique set of variables to the operating table (pardon the bun), from basic metrics and vitals such as age, heart rate, oxygen levels, blood counts, and the like, to medical history, environmental factors, family medical risks, and countless more. The decision to administer anesthetics and how much must be fine tuned for each individual patient, and anesthesiologists must be able to predict and adjust for the resulting outcomes.

Continuous improvement of the study of anesthesiology cannot be done without complex empirical research and statistical analysis, measuring a plethora of variables that may or may not turn out to be relevant to the final conclusions. Moreover, practicing professionals must be critically aware deviations from the norm and will build up their own banks of pattern recognition experience over time.

In fact, any empirical justification of a medical intervention must be founded in reliable analytical studies of complex statistics before it can be considered both safe and recommended. Observable results must not only be non-harmful but must also be statistically significant. This cannot be understood without advanced knowledge in how the mathematics of statistics works.

Epidemiology is the study of viral spread in human populations, and its role has become increasingly more visible as the world faced the COVID-19 pandemic. Decision-makers continue need accurate data on case spread, symptom changes, mutations, effectiveness of policy measures, vaccine risk factors, treatment efficacy, and more in order to make informed policy decisions, and this is fundamentally rooted in statistics.

But statistics is just the start. With accurate statistics, medical scientists can develop formulas, charts, and data tables that enable radiologists to advise hospitals on radiation and magnetization levels for imaging technology. Oncologists can make decisions about how much chemotherapy to administer to a patient. Cardiologists can measure the variables in a proposed heart surgery and have a framework for maximizing the probability of success.

An Inseparable Pairing

Medical science is inseparably dependent on mathematics. Whether its the analysis of a revolutionary new technology, or the determination of correct doses of paediatric medicines, we would be far more behind in the medical capabilities of the modern world without the contributions that mathematics has made to the medical world. If you’ve had a major surgery or have seen a loved one recover from a serious illness thanks to the administering of a life-saving treatment, you’ve witnessed math-fuelled medicine at a personal level. In many ways, all of us, either directly or indirectly, owe our lives to the influences math has had on our advancements in medical science.

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