Anyone who has written a research paper in school was probably told more than a couple times that Wikipedia was not a valid resource. To hear now that IMS Institute found that Wikipedia is the number one source of health information may leave you scratching your head. As it relies on user input, research showing that rare diseases are visited on the site more than common diseases may cause a bit more discomfort. But if doctors were directly involved in the information, would some of the discomfort and confusion be put to ease?
A professor from University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine may have found a way to bring accuracy to these Wikipedia articles. Dr. Amin Azzam has launched an elective for medical students in their fourth year, just six months from becoming doctors, to edit Wikipedia articles to ensure accurate information is available to the public. He told Quartz, “A lot of professors have done it. I’m not all that innovative. But it hasn’t been done at the medical school level, at least not in the US.” Stepping out of the comfort zone, Azzam is confronting the taboo territory that the medical profession is normally told to stay away from.
With this new program in place, Azzam has been glad to hear that his students have promised to maintain edits to the articles after their course has ended, amid their blooming medical career. This continued dedication should be a positive step for Wikipedia health articles, and does provide more information for resources like Wikipedia Zero, a data-charge-free Wikipedia site mainly for developing countries, and Translators Without Borders, which will translate popular health articles into various languages.