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Acad Med. 2017 Feb;92(2):194-200. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000001381.

Why Medical Schools Should Embrace Wikipedia: Final-Year Medical Student Contributions to Wikipedia Articles for Academic Credit at One School.

Author information

A. Azzam is associate clinical professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California. D. Bresler is resident physician, Department of Psychiatry, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California. A. Leon is resident physician, San Mateo County Psychiatry Residency Training Program, San Mateo, California. L. Maggio is associate professor, Department of Medicine, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland. E. Whitaker is education and information consultant for medicine, Library and Center for Knowledge Management, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California. J. Heilman is clinical assistant professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. J. Orlowitz is head, Wikipedia Library, Wikimedia Foundation, San Francisco, California. V. Swisher is board member, Translators Without Borders, and chief executive officer, Content Rules, Inc., Los Gatos, California. L. Rasberry is Wikipedian in residence, Consumer Reports, Yonkers, New York. K. Otoide is cofounder,, Lagos, Nigeria. F. Trotter is data journalist, DocGraph, Houston, Texas. W. Ross is project manager, Mendocino Informatics, Inc., Mendocino, California. J.D. McCue is emeritus professor of medicine, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California.



Most medical students use Wikipedia as an information source, yet medical schools do not train students to improve Wikipedia or use it critically.


Between November 2013 and November 2015, the authors offered fourth-year medical students a credit-bearing course to edit Wikipedia. The course was designed, delivered, and evaluated by faculty, medical librarians, and personnel from WikiProject Medicine, Wikipedia Education Foundation, and Translators Without Borders. The authors assessed the effect of the students' edits on Wikipedia's content, the effect of the course on student participants, and readership of students' chosen articles.


Forty-three enrolled students made 1,528 edits (average 36/student), contributing 493,994 content bytes (average 11,488/student). They added higher-quality and removed lower-quality sources for a net addition of 274 references (average 6/student). As of July 2016, none of the contributions of the first 28 students (2013, 2014) have been reversed or vandalized. Students discovered a tension between comprehensiveness and readability/translatability, yet readability of most articles increased. Students felt they improved their articles, enjoyed giving back "specifically to Wikipedia," and broadened their sense of physician responsibilities in the socially networked information era. During only the "active editing months," Wikipedia traffic statistics indicate that the 43 articles were collectively viewed 1,116,065 times. Subsequent to students' efforts, these articles have been viewed nearly 22 million times.


If other schools replicate and improve on this initiative, future multi-institution studies could more accurately measure the effect of medical students on Wikipedia, and vice versa.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Conflict of interest statement

Other disclosures: Between June 2015 and December 2015, James Heilman served on the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation. Lane Rasberry is a Wikipedian in Residence at Consumer Reports. Jake Orlowitz is a paid employee of the Wikipedia Library at the Wikimedia Foundation.

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