Target: Dr. Amin Azzam and Dr. Micheal Turken, two college-affiliated doctors
Goal: Applaud a new elective course that gives medical students credit for editing Wikipedia pages
According to The New York Times, the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is the first medical school to give students credit for participating in Wikiproject Medicine, which targets the top 100 prominent medical articles for editing. The idea sprang up when a friend asked a Stanford doctor how long HIV tests could give false negative readings. Wikipedia’s answer was 10 days, but Stanford’s Dr. Turken discovered after reviewing medical literature that the true figure is 28 days. After Turken corrected the page, he noticed that over 10,000 people were reading the article each month and realized the influence of Wikipedia’s medical information. In the hopes that student research “will live” he and other medical professors are offering college courses that involve contribution to Wikipedia pages.
The pilot course follows a simple but powerful philosophy. “We as a profession have our corpus of knowledge, and we owe it as a profession to educate the lay public,” says Dr. Amin Azzam, a UCSF health sciences associate clinical professor who will teach the month-long elective this December 2013. Articles will be submitted to Translators without Borders to disseminate the translated medical articles to countries often lacking in quality medical information. This partnership supports the efforts of the Wikimedia Foundation, which aims to provide Wikipedia free of data charges specifically in developing countries, where cellphones are often the primary way to connect to the Internet.
Open to fourth year medical students, the course will help hone medical students’ communication, the failure of which remains a common complaint among patients, by training them to “think clearly and avoid jargon.” So far three students have signed up for the course, but scheduling the course in December when most students are travelling for interviews to set up their residencies allows them the flexibility to edit on the go. By signing the petition below, you can commend UCSF for creating a win-win situation out of a health disparity and modeling greater engagement of medical students to provide the general public with high quality medical information.
Dear University of California San Francisco medical professor Dr. Amin Azzam, and resident in internal medicine at Stanford Hospital and Clinics Dr. Michael Turken,
I want to commend you on your efforts to make quality medical information accessible to the general public and especially in developing countries. Your one-month elective course that gives UCSF medical students credits for editing top medical articles on Wikipedia is a major step in engaging students with virtually the largest community possible and combating a serious disparity where high quality medical information is lacking.
I hope your leadership inspires greater innovation and broad-minded thinking the likes of which you have demonstrated so provocatively. I wish you the best of luck with the pilot course, and I congratulate you on the many lives you will change thanks to your efforts.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons