Doctors Decide They Need to Be the Ones Editing Medical Wikipedia ArticlesBy: Josh Wolford - October 1, 2013
Unless you’re some sort of know-it-all who thinks that you can scour the internet and self-diagnose any ailment that might befall you, I bet that you prefer to get your medical advice from people who spent years developing medical knowledge. You know, med students and doctors.
But the reality is that no matter how much you’d prefer the knowledge of a doctor, there will be times that you’ll have to consult the internet when you find yourself in a medical quandary. And it’s likely that you’ll consult either WebMD or WIkipedia. The problem with the former is that all paths eventually lead to some sort of terminal cancer. We’ve all experienced the WebMD sweats – the general panic that comes from just knowing that you have a brain tumor. No, seriously, it’s a brain tumor. I have all the symptoms…
Wikipedia is great, if not a bit flawed. You see, it’s carefully edited and revisions are listed and up for scrutiny, but it’s not a perfect process. In the end you’re left with medical articles mostly written by average joes, not medical professionals. Now, one of the nations’s top medical school is looking to change that.
The University of California, San Francisco is about the be the first medical school in the U.S. to give medical students credit for taking classes on how to edit Wikipedia.
“Wikipedia generates more than 53 million page views just for articles about medications each month, and is second to Google as the most frequently used source by junior physicians,” said Amin Azzam, MD, MA, an instructor for the new course. “We’re recognizing the impact Wikipedia can have to educate patients and health care providers across the globe, and want users to receive the most accurate publicly available, sound medical information possible.”
Basically, everyone uses Wikipedia for medical information (even doctors) – and it would probably be better for everyone if the articles were more accurate.
The Wiki-editing classes will be available to fourth-year med students. The class will focus on the 80 medicine-related articles that are most accessed on the internet’s encyclopedia, but more some reason have been cited as having a low quality rating – i.e. not giving you correct or the most complete information.
The project was spurred on by the Wiki Project Med Foundation, a nonprofit whose stated mission is to “make clear, reliable, comprehensive, up-to-date educational resources and information in the biomedical and related social sciences freely available to all people in the language of their choice.” One of, if not their main, focus is on Wikipedia entries.
A knowledge database is only as strong as the knowledge of those who contribute. And when it comes to your health and well-being, the stakes couldn’t possibly be higher.