Since Fall 2015, Wiki Education has had the unique pleasure of working with Dr. Amin Azzam, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. Each term, Dr. Azzam offers a 4-week elective to fourth-year medical students, during which time they improve medical content on Wikipedia. I had the opportunity to visit Dr. Azzam’s Fall 2017 cohort along with Wiki Education’s Communications Associate, Cassidy Villeneuve, as they begin their Wikipedia assignment.
Wikipedia is now a mainstream source for medical information, and the public uses it more frequently than sites such as the NIH and Mayo Clinic. People are going to Wikipedia to find out information on very real health concerns, which is why Wikipedia has developed a series of strict standards around contributing in the field of medicine. It’s critical that Wikipedia convey medical information that is reliable, up-to-date, and above all comprehensible to a non-expert audience. Medical students are uniquely positioned to improve medical content on Wikipedia, which is why Dr. Azzam has developed and expanded his course over the past several years.
As Dr. Azzam has often put it, fourth-year medical students are not so advanced in their careers that they can “no longer speak English.” They have a solid grasp of medical knowledge, but can still convey it in a way that is accessible to a broader audience. His students’ work has been viewed millions of times, and several other medical institutions have now begun to offer similar courses based on Dr. Azzam’s model. In Fall 2017, we’re working with medical students at the Medical School of South Carolina, University of Central Florida, University of Southern California, and Tel Aviv University.
During my visit to Dr. Azzam’s class, we not only discussed how his medical students can improve Wikipedia, but how in doing so, they will become better medical communicators, a skill that they can hopefully use both in and beyond the examination room. We’re looking forward to another productive term with Dr. Azzam’s students and to watching his initiative grow.
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