B.C. doctor part of team editing popular Wikipedia page on Ebola

Dr. James Heilman has been editing Wikipedia since 2008.
Dr. James Heilman has been editing Wikipedia since 2008. Global News

VANCOUVER – A doctor from Cranbrook, B.C., is part of a team of health care professionals editing Wikipedia pages on health issues and diseases, making sure they are accurate and up-to-date.

Emergency Room doctor, James Heilman, started editing Wikipedia in 2008 while working a night shift.

“I realized I could fix the Internet and I sort of got hooked at that point,” he said.

Now he is part of Wikiproject Medicine, aiming to make Wikipedia a trusted source of information.

“There’s a core group of us within Wikipedia, within Wikipedia’s medical project, that keep an eye on Wikipedia’s most-read articles,” he said.

As Ebola started to make headlines around the world, Wikipedia’s entry on the subject soared in popularity with millions of page views. A web search of ‘Ebola’ shows that Wikipedia’s page ranks higher than information from World Health Organization and the Centre for Disease Control.

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When Heilman is not in the emergency room, he can often be found in front of his computer, managing Wikipedia’s medical content.

“I concentrate my efforts, both on Wikipedia’s most-read content, as well as this group of most important human diseases,” said Heilman. “So for example, I’ve spent time on an article on HIV / AIDS, I’ve spent time on an article about malaria, I’ve spent time on an article about the common cold.”

“In my opinion, everyone deserves access to a good, high-quality overview of these conditions and that is where I direct my efforts.”

He said the best way to separate fact from rumour is to use the best sources on the subjects.

“One of the most concerning ones that circulated for a while is that Ebola has become airborne,” said Heilman. “This generates further fear, there’s no evidence of airborne transmission among people, there is some research that’s raised slight concerns but this research hasn’t been replicated so I think the big thing is emphasizing what we know, making sure minor concerns don’t get blown out of proportion.”

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