Look Up New Illness? Go to Wikipedia. Not.

I don't know if you're like me but when I get a new symptom or diagnosis from a doctor, I rush online to check out what it is.  Usually, Wikipedia comes up first, and even though I knew better, I usually believe whatever it says.

Now doctors are saying that a lot of that information is just, well, wrong.

"I think that's the double-edged sword of Wikipedia," Dr. Amin Azzam tells NPR's Arun Rath, as reported at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). "Because anyone can edit, we don't necessarily know the expertise of the people doing the editing. One the other hand, the reason it's so popular is because everyone can contribute."

Azzam is a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. He teaches a course that encourages fourth-year medical students to use their knowledge to improve Wikipedia, one article at a time, as RWJF notes.

Azzam tells NPR there's a lot of room for improving the quality of Wikipedia in the medical domain because doctors are late-comers to the resource.
"In the health care community, we're used to learning from wisened professors above us," says Azzam. "My generation absolutely pooh-poohed Wikipedia, and now I'm finding that all my med students use that first because it's written in a way that they understand as they are learning to become doctors." 

As for the rest of us, many have been discouraged from running online to research a new illness or disorder. Sometimes the prognosis can be bleak but that doesn't mean you'll have the same outcome.  If you really want to find out about your condition,go to an accredited medical Web site, like the National Institutes of Health, http://www.nih.gov/, or The American Cancer Society, http://www.cancer.org/?gclid=COO_tfyYwrwCFWYaOgodX3oA0A.


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