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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Math And The Veterinarian's Day

Here is part of an email that Paula sent me....

 I graduate high school next year. I score an A in science and a B in math. Getting that B was very hard as I struggle a bit at math. I just want your opinion. If you wanted to be a vet but struggled at math, would you have continued to pursue your dream or switched to a career less intense? I can promise you work doesn't scare me. 

Let me be honest in saying that math was always a struggle for me as well.  I got mostly B's and occasional A's in math, and I had to work hard for those.  Math wasn't something that has ever come easy or natural for me and it has always required a lot of effort.  Most of my basic and even advanced math skills are rusty to say the least, and I've forgotten a lot of it.  I took calculus in college as a requirement for vet school, but I've never used it since those classes, couldn't tell you what in the world calculus is used for, and have no idea why it was a pre-veterinary requirement.

So the short answer is yes, you can still be a successful vet when math doesn't come easy.

That being said, basic math skills are essential and are used daily, especially algebra.  There isn't a day that goes by that I don't use some form of math in my job.  I have to calculate drug dosages, convert one unit to another, figure out dilutions of medications for my exotics patients, determine fluid rates, and many, many other things.  If I didn't have basic math abilities I wouldn't be able to perform my job, and couldn't even prescribe drugs appropriately.  If my calculations are wrong, it could prevent effective treatment or potentially cause severe side effects.  My success at math often determines my success as a doctor.

But you don't have to be a math whiz to be successful.  I can do a lot of math in my head, but I keep a calculator in my pocket to make basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division easier.  Most of our fluids are given with an electric pump, which prevents having to calculate the drips per minute for a given hourly rate.  In modern times there are plenty of apps and programs where you can plug in a given set of values and have the end results determined for you.  And really you only need basic math skills and algebra for almost all of your calculations.

It is impossible to be involved in science and medicine without some skill in math.  But you don't have to be an expert to be a veterinarian.