Sask. doctor keeps COVID-19 Wikipedia info accurate with encyclopedic dedication

Wikipedia has been a go-to web site for medical data in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, getting greater than 10 million hits per day from folks in search of medical content material together with data on the novel coronavirus.

And while you’re clicking on the positioning in search of the most recent COVID-19 data, a Saskatchewan-born and educated physician is likely one of the folks on the opposite facet of the positioning, guaranteeing that the knowledge you see is certainly correct.

Dr. James Heilman is that Wikipedian. When he isn’t enhancing the positioning, he’s additionally the top of the emergency division on the East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook, B.C.

“There’s an entire variety of layers of high quality assurance,” Heilman instructed CBC Radio’s The Afternoon Version, however added, “If you’re making an necessary resolution, I would not base it 100 per cent on what you learn on Wikipedia’s pages.”  

Heilman mentioned the very first entry about this present pandemic confirmed up as a single sentence on Jan. 6 this yr. There have been solely 44 instances recorded on the time; now there are greater than 8.5 million instances on the planet, and counting.

Wikipedia’s COVID-19 content material has grown quickly and since that first entry, about 58,000 folks have made greater than 700,000 edits within the subject space. The COVID-19 data additionally exists in 175 languages.  

Heilman mentioned when there are points with Wikipedia, “it is typically that data is lacking or at instances, old-fashioned.” 

In relation to COVID-19, Wikipedia prioritizes data from respected sources such because the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention and Well being Canada, based on Heilman.

Heilman was born close to Cochin, Sask., a resort village 153 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon, and is a graduate from the College of Saskatchewan’s Faculty of Medication. 

His relationship with Wikipedia started one quiet night time within the emergency room about 13 years in the past: Heilman was taking a look at a web page that had a couple of minor points.

“Then I observed an edit button, and I hit that edit button, and I noticed I might repair the web,” mentioned Heilman. “That is what roped me in — and I have been making an attempt to repair the web ever since.”

For the previous yr, Heilman says he places in about 20 hours every week on Wikipedia content material. It is also a fraction of what he has achieved prior to now. 

Dr. James Heilman edits Wikipedia about 20 hours per week. He’s additionally the top of the emergency division at a Cranbrook, B.C., hospital. (Submitted by James Heilman)

He has, at instances, devoted as many as 60 hours per week to Wikipedia. At one level a couple of years in the past, he decreased his time working within the emergency room in order that he might spend extra time doing his Wikipedia work.  

Heilman likes the encyclopedia of the web as a result of it exhibits the origin of each article and each change made alongside the way in which.  

As a result of anybody can contribute to Wikipedia and initially anybody can edit the pages on the positioning, some folks criticize its accuracy. Heilman says that Wikipedia is definitely fairly correct. Regardless, his recommendation is to double examine and confirm for your self.

Heilman would give the identical advice for any supply as a result of something you discover on the web can probably include errors. Heilman factors out that content material on Fb, YouTube and Twitter are sometimes plagued with errors, much more so than Wikipedia.

As a result of anybody can contribute to Wikipedia and initially anybody can edit the pages within the web site, some folks criticize its accuracy. Heilman says that Wikipedia is definitely fairly correct. (Submitted by James Heilman)

One of many causes he’s so passionate concerning the web site is its usefulness which permits it to assist folks, even these with out web entry. Heilman works with others to bundle Wikipedia content material into offline cellular apps for these in distant locations.

“This fashion, folks can obtain all of Wikipedia’s medical content material once they have entry to the web after which once they return to their communities, the place there isn’t any entry, they will nonetheless browse that content material as a result of it is downloaded on their cellphone.”

Probably the most far reaching tasks he is collaborating on is known as “Web in a Field.” Heilman downloads all of Wikipedia’s content material onto miniature computer systems after which he mails the small computer systems to locations all over the world, the place the web does not exist or the place there’s little web entry.

“I’ve despatched these computer systems to Papua New Guinea, Uruguay, Argentina, Cuba. I even despatched some to Puerto Rico once they had been struggling after the hurricane when the ability and electrical energy went down,” he mentioned. 

Heilman mentioned he is shipped some to nursing faculties, small medical clinics and libraries in faraway locations, all the time with the hope to present folks entry to data.

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