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Medical Specialties that use / require math?

fishing102

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May 23, 2020
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I'm currently a chemical engineering / applied math double major, and just finished my 2nd year of undergrad. I've always wanted to become a doctor, but I really love math and am afraid I will not be able to apply it as a doctor. Are there any specialties that use math or complex (math-like) problem solving frequently?
I've heard radiology has some math, but I've been pressed to find exactly what it entails lol.
Toxicology is governed by differential equations, do practicing toxicologists use those, or more just computer programs?
Are there any semi-unknown specialties that use lots of math, or would I have to go into research or a completely different career to get my fix?
Thanks for your help!
 

KLMD44

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May 17, 2019
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From what I know I would say most of the math used in medicine is quite simple throughout all specialties. I would assume some more advanced mathematics could potentially be applied in some medical research though.
 
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NotAnotherPreMed

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Hey. BME grad and now 4th year med student. I had the same question earlier and this is the list I made for myself. 1. Radiology (math is p important to understand the basics and background of imaging. Infinite potential in mathematical/ comp sci AI type of work in the field (I'm involved in some too). In fact for radiology board exams there's even a section on physics. 2. Radiation oncology - p complex physics and math regarding optimizing dosages and paths. Honestly most of rest of medicine you don't NEED complex math (beyond arithmetic) for clinical duties but almost every field will appreciate math skills for specific research applications.
 
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HuskyMD85

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While the principles of CT imaging are based on Fourier transforms and the algorithms of computerized imaging are based in complex math, I think the actual practicing radiologist uses very little math (if any) in the interpretation of x-rays, CT scans, etc.
Pulmonary-critical care does require math. The pressure and air flow through the ventilator circuit is analogous to potential (volts) and current through an electrical circuit, i.e., Ohms law applies. The behavior of alveolar and lung compliance can be explained via RC time constants, just like an electrical circuit.
There is a lot of math needed in calculation of medication dosages (unless you want to rely entirely on the pharmacist who may not be readily available). I have to admit much of the math is simple high school algebra, no advanced calculus, Fourier or Laplace transforms, but the understanding of flow dynamics and circuits will give you a head start in understanding pulmonary physiology, ventilator management, and make you look smart to the housestaff and med students were are liberal arts majors.
 
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group_theory

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Pulm-CCM attending here.

For understanding what's going on - how the vent "works" with the body, how to get the results you want, etc. requires some math, but no where near what you need/learn as an engineer. It's mostly simple math (algebraic at most), but understanding the implication is what confuses most people - such as understanding oxygen saturation curve, frank sterling curve, etc. Understanding dead space ventilation and how it is affected by vent changes, etc. Calculating anion gap, and even delta-gap (or delta-delta) on a patient, etc. and its implication. Medications are calculated per kg per unit time (min, hr)

Just like @HuskyMD85 says, it's simple high school algebra mostly. You won't even be doing entry-level calculus. While understanding higher level math helps understand what's going on, and even how something works (ie MRI, PET, ultrasound, etc), or explaining to families/staff drug metabolism (zero order vs 1st order vs 2nd order) … or even understand how exponential growth works … in real life, the math is either elementary, or at most algebraic.

That's the clinical aspect. If you decide to do research, math plays a bigger role - whether it is the realm of physiology, or statistics and/or biostatistics. Then it's lots and lots of math.
 
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fishing102

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May 23, 2020
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Pulm-CCM attending here.

For understanding what's going on - how the vent "works" with the body, how to get the results you want, etc. requires some math, but no where near what you need/learn as an engineer. It's mostly simple math (algebraic at most), but understanding the implication is what confuses most people - such as understanding oxygen saturation curve, frank sterling curve, etc. Understanding dead space ventilation and how it is affected by vent changes, etc. Calculating anion gap, and even delta-gap (or delta-delta) on a patient, etc. and its implication. Medications are calculated per kg per unit time (min, hr)

Just like @HuskyMD85 says, it's simple high school algebra mostly. You won't even be doing entry-level calculus. While understanding higher level math helps understand what's going on, and even how something works (ie MRI, PET, ultrasound, etc), or explaining to families/staff drug metabolism (zero order vs 1st order vs 2nd order) … or even understand how exponential growth works … in real life, the math is either elementary, or at most algebraic.

That's the clinical aspect. If you decide to do research, math plays a bigger role - whether it is the realm of physiology, or statistics and/or biostatistics. Then it's lots and lots of math.
Thank you so much, that is incredibly helpful!
 

SunBakedTrash

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No one is going to use the complex mathematics you are describing in routine medical practice. The most actual physicians use on a daily basis are plug and chug formulas for rough calculations of dosing or vent settings (ie pre-algebra level math, mostly relegated to iphone apps at this point). Radiation oncology uses a lot of physics and from what I understand, that is a significant portion of their board exam. However, they do have physicists who work with them and do most of the legwork. This might be the closest you would find to what you are asking. Of course if you are interested in bioengineering, there may be more of a place for this, but this won't be medical practice, more like medical research.
 
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Maimonides1

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I'm currently a chemical engineering / applied math double major, and just finished my 2nd year of undergrad. I've always wanted to become a doctor, but I really love math and am afraid I will not be able to apply it as a doctor. Are there any specialties that use math or complex (math-like) problem solving frequently?
I've heard radiology has some math, but I've been pressed to find exactly what it entails lol.
Toxicology is governed by differential equations, do practicing toxicologists use those, or more just computer programs?
Are there any semi-unknown specialties that use lots of math, or would I have to go into research or a completely different career to get my fix?
Thanks for your help!

With all respects to all my colleagues, no one beats or even comes close to Amazing Ophthalmology!!

I was going into physics/mathematics my first love before I was attracted to medicine and kept my love alive in Ophthalmology..
Where you can do:
- The optics and refractive system of the eye
- Prisms and light theory
- Fourier analysis of high order aberrations of the eye
- Topographic mapping of cornea
- Fluidics dynamics of the eye and fick equation for intra ocular pressure and blood flow
- Biomechanical engineering of prosthetic cornea and material rigidity coefficient
- Calculating intra ocular lens implants and A constants for different models and materials
- Electro physiological studies, the bionic eye and photoreceptors retinal computer chips..etc,

From MIT studies of the Math in Horus Eye in ancient Egypt to the modern Gullstrand refractive model that was designed by Swedish Ophthalmologist and physicist Dr Gullstrand who won Noble prize in 1911 and served on the physics section of the academy to deny Einstein his prize for general relativity in 1921 due to his criticism..,
You will find lots of fun of applying physics math and microsurgical techniques in preserving vision and bringing happiness to the world!
 
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