James Heilman

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James Heilman
Dr. James Heilman.jpg
Heilman at Wikimania 2015
Born 1979/1980 (age 38–39)[1]
Saskatchewan, Canada
Citizenship Canadian
Medical career
Profession Physician
Field Emergency medicine

James M. Heilman (born 1979/1980) is a Canadian emergency physician, Wikipedian, and advocate for the improvement of Wikipedia's health-related content. He encourages other clinicians to contribute to the online encyclopedia.[2][3]

With the Wikipedia username Doc James, Heilman is an active contributor to WikiProject Medicine, and a volunteer Wikipedia administrator. He was the president of Wikimedia Canada between 2010 and 2013, and founded and was formerly the president of Wiki Project Med Foundation.[4][5][6][7][8] He is also the founder of WikiProject Medicine's Medicine Translation Task Force.[9] In June 2015, he was elected to the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees, a position which he held until he was removed on December 28, 2015.[10][11][12] Heilman was re-elected to the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees in May 2017.[13]

Heilman is a clinical assistant professor at the department of emergency medicine at the University of British Columbia,[14][15] and the head of the department of emergency medicine at East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook, British Columbia, where he lives.[1][2]

Early life and education

Heilman was born and raised in rural Saskatchewan.[16] He graduated from the University of Saskatchewan in 2000 with a Bachelor of Science in anatomy, and he subsequently earned his medical degree there in 2003.[2] He then completed his family medicine residency in British Columbia from 2003 to 2005.[16] Heilman currently holds a certificate of added competency in the field of emergency medicine with the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

Medical career

Heilman worked at Moose Jaw Union Hospital, a hospital in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, until 2010, when he began working at East Kootenay Regional Hospital,[2][17] where, in October 2012, he was appointed head of the department of emergency medicine.[2] In 2014, he told the Cranbrook Daily Townsman that the emergency department at East Kootenay saw an average of 22,000 patients each year.[18]


As of May 2014, Heilman was working on a study with Samir Grover, of the University of Toronto, which would assign medical students to take a test using either Wikipedia or medical textbooks to determine which is more accurate.[19] Later that year, Heilman co-authored a version of the Wikipedia article for dengue fever in the peer-reviewed journal Open Medicine.[20] Heilman also worked on a study with Microsoft which found that in the three countries where the Ebola outbreak had the largest impact, Wikipedia was the most popular source for information about the disease.[21] In 2015, Heilman and Andrew West published a study which found that the number of Wikipedia editors who focused on editing medical articles decreased by 40 percent from 2008 to 2013.[22] These results, together with other detailed analyses about the production and consumption of medical content on Wikipedia, were published by the Journal of Medical Internet Research in 2015.[23]

Wikipedia and Wikimedia activities

Question and answer session with James Heilman about editing Wikipedia at the University of British Columbia

Since the beginning of his activity as a contributor to medicine-related Wikipedia articles in 2008, Heilman has been promoting the improvement of medical content by encouraging fellow physicians to take part.[2] He became interested in editing Wikipedia on a slow night shift, when he looked up the article on obesity and found that it contained many errors. "I realized that I could fix it. I made a huge number of edits and improved the quality a great deal. I sort of became hooked from there," he told the Hamilton Spectator in 2011.[3] As of 2016, he edited medical articles on Wikipedia for about 60 hours a week.[24]

Heilman takes part in an initiative through Wiki Project Med Foundation with Translators Without Borders, working to improve and translate English Wikipedia medical articles of top importance into minority languages.[25][26][27] The Wiki Project Med Foundation has started a collaboration with the University of California, San Francisco as a recruit for scientifically literate editors, by giving students college credit for improving medicine-related Wikipedia pages.[28] In 2014, the Wiki Project Med Foundation also partnered with the Cochrane Collaboration, with the goal of improving the reliability and accuracy of information on Wikipedia. With regard to this partnership, Heilman said, "The way Wikipedia works is that all content is to stand entirely on the references that are listed. If the best quality sources are used to write Wikipedia there's a good chance that Wikipedia will contain the best quality information."[29]

Heilman spoke at Wikimania 2014, where he said that 93% of medical students use Wikipedia, and argued that "fixing the internet" is now a critical task for anyone who cares about healthcare.[30]

Ebola contributions

By reviewing and correcting medical content in the manner promoted by Heilman (and with many of his contributions), in Wikipedia articles like that about Ebola, Wikipedia has become a source of information to the general public, thus being regarded among respected sites run by the World Health Organization[31] and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,[32] covering the topic.[4][33] Heilman reduced the time he spent working in the emergency department so he could spend more time updating this page.[34] In 2014, he told the Cranbrook Daily Townsman that with respect to Wikipedia's coverage of Ebola, "The big thing is emphasizing what we know, making sure that minor concerns don’t get blown out of proportion."[35] He also said that, despite rumours to the contrary, there was no evidence that the disease had become airborne, and that ebola had caused far fewer deaths than other conditions such as malaria and gastroenteritis.[35]

Rorschach test images

In 2009, Heilman, who was then a resident of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan,[36] added public domain images of the ink blots used in the Rorschach test to the Wikipedia article on the subject, and concerned psychologists said that this could invalidate the tests.[17][37][38] Some psychologists stated the test had "already lost its popularity and usefulness."[17][38] In an interview with The New York Times, Heilman stated that he added the entire set because a debate about a single image seemed absurd and psychologists' fears were unfounded.[39] Appearing on Canada AM on July 31, 2009, Heilman also said that "This information [i.e. the inkblots] is encyclopedic. This is what people expect to see when they see this page."[40] In August 2009, two Canadian psychologists filed complaints about Heilman to his local doctors' organization; Heilman called the complaints "intimidation tactics."[41] In September 2009, the College of Psychologists of British Columbia urged the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons to launch an investigation into Heilman's posting of the images. Heilman told CTV News that "The psychological community is trying to exclude everybody outside their field from taking part in discussions related to what they do. And personally, I think that's bad science."[42] An extensive debate ensued on Wikipedia, and the images were kept.[39]

Textbook plagiarism of Wikipedia

In 2012, Heilman noticed that the book Understanding and Management of Special Child in Pediatric Dentistry, published by Jaypee Brothers, contained a long passage about HIV that was plagiarized from Wikipedia's article on the subject.[25] This subsequently led to the book being withdrawn by the publisher.[43]

In October 2014, while reading a copy of the Oxford Textbook of Zoonoses (published by Oxford University Press), Heilman noticed that the book's section on Ebola was very similar to the Wikipedia page on that subject.[22] He initially suspected that a Wikipedia editor had copied the portion but later noticed that the part of the Wikipedia article that resembled the part of the textbook had been written in 2006 and 2010, while the textbook had not been published until 2011.[22] Christian Purdy, an Oxford University Press spokesperson, acknowledged that some of the text in the textbook had been copied but described it as an "inadvertent omission of an appropriate attribution" rather than plagiarism.[22]

Tenure on the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees

In June 2015, Heilman was elected by the community to the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees.[10] In December 2015, the Board removed Heilman from his position as a Trustee,[11][44] a decision that generated substantial controversy amongst members of the Wikipedia community.[45] A statement released by the board declared the lack of confidence of his fellow trustees in him as the reasons for his ousting. Heilman later stated that he "was given the option of resigning [by the Board] over the last few weeks. As a community elected member I see my mandate as coming from the community which elected me and thus declined to do so. I saw such a move as letting down those who elected me."[46] He subsequently pointed out that while on the Board, he had pushed for greater transparency regarding the Wikimedia Foundation's controversial Knowledge Engine project and its financing,[47] and indicated that his attempts to make public the Knight Foundation grant for the engine had been a factor in his dismissal.[48]

The volunteer community re-elected him to the Wikimedia Foundation board in 2017.[49]


In 2012, Heilman was one of two Wikimedia contributors sued by Internet Brands for shifting freely licensed content and volunteer editors from the for-profit site Wikitravel to the non-profit site Wikivoyage. The Wikimedia Foundation defended Heilman's actions in the lawsuit, citing volunteer freedom of choice.[50][51] In February 2013, the parties settled their litigation.[52] In 2014, Heilman criticized a study which concluded that 9 out of 10 Wikipedia medical articles contained errors.[6][53][54] In 2015, the Atlantic ran a piece about conflict-of-interest editing on Wikipedia which detailed Heilman's efforts to counteract edits made by employees of Medtronic to the Wikipedia page for percutaneous vertebroplasty.[22] In 2017, Vice also ran an article about conflict-of-interest editing on Wikipedia, in which the author noted that Heilman had vocally called on the Wikimedia Foundation to increase its enforcement of Wikipedia's policy against undisclosed paid editing.[55]

Personal life

Heilman enjoys running ultramarathons and adventure racing,[17][56] and he and his girlfriend ran the Gobi March in 2008.[57] He has also run the Marathon des Sables, the Adventure Racing World Championships,[16] and the Saskatchewan Marathon.[58]

See also

Wikipedia-related publications

  • Heilman, James M.; Kemmann, Eckhard; Bonert, Michael; Chatterjee, Anwesh; et al. (31 January 2011). "Wikipedia: A key tool for global public health promotion". Journal of Medical Internet Research. 13 (1): e14. doi:10.2196/jmir.1589. PMC 3221335. PMID 21282098.
  • Heilman, James (September 2011). "Why we should all edit Wikipedia" (PDF). University of British Columbia Medical Journal. 3 (1): 32–33. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
  • Mathew, Manu; Joseph, Anna; Heilman, James; Tharyan, Prathap (22 October 2013). "Cochrane and Wikipedia: The collaborative potential for a quantum leap in the dissemination and uptake of trusted evidence". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 10 (10): ED000069. doi:10.1002/14651858.ED000069. PMID 24475488.
  • Heilman, James M. (October 2014). "Dengue fever: a Wikipedia clinical review". Open Medicine. 8 (3): 105–15. Archived from the original on 6 October 2014.
  • Heilman, James M; West, Andrew G (4 March 2015). "Wikipedia and Medicine: Quantifying Readership, Editors, and the Significance of Natural Language". Journal of Medical Internet Research. 17 (3): e62. doi:10.2196/jmir.4069. PMC 4376174. PMID 25739399.
  • Heilman, J (August 2015). "Open Access to a High-Quality, Impartial, Point-of-Care Medical Summary Would Save Lives: Why Does It Not Exist?". PLoS Medicine. 12 (8): e1001868. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001868. PMC 4549298. PMID 26305335.
  • Azzam, A; Bresler, D; Leon, A; Maggio, L; Whitaker, E; Heilman, J; et al. (13 September 2016). "Why Medical Schools Should Embrace Wikipedia: Final-Year Medical Student Contributions to Wikipedia Articles for Academic Credit at One School". Academic Medicine. 92 (2): 194–200. doi:10.1097/ACM.0000000000001381. PMC 5265689. PMID 27627633.
  • Masukume, G; Kipersztok, L; Das, D; Shafee, TM; Laurent, MR; Heilman, JM (November 2016). "Medical journals and Wikipedia: a global health matter". The Lancet Global Health. 4 (11): e791. doi:10.1016/S2214-109X(16)30254-6. PMID 27765289.
  • Shafee, Thomas; Masukume, Gwinyai; Kipersztok, Lisa; Das, Diptanshu; Häggström, Mikael; Heilman, James (2017-08-28). "Evolution of Wikipedia's medical content: past, present and future". Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. 71 (11): 1122–1129. doi:10.1136/jech-2016-208601. PMID 28847845.


  1. ^ a b Laidlaw, Katherine (September 2013). "Is Google Making Us Sick?". Reader's Digest. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Fleck, Fiona (1 January 2013). "Online encyclopedia provides free health info for all" (PDF). Bulletin of the World Health Organization. World Health Organization. 91 (1): 8–9. doi:10.2471/BLT.13.030113. PMC 3537258. PMID 23397345.
  3. ^ a b Mcneil, Mark (4 October 2011). "Wikipedia makes a house call to Mac". The Spec. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
  4. ^ a b Cohen, Noam (26 October 2014). "Wikipedia Emerges as Trusted Internet Source for Ebola Information". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 October 2014.
  5. ^ Berko, Lex (2013). "Medical Students Can Now Earn Credit for Editing Wikipedia". Vice. Archived from the original on January 12, 2014. Retrieved January 12, 2014.
  6. ^ a b Stephens, Pippa (28 May 2014). "Trust your doctor, not Wikipedia, say scientists". BBC News. Retrieved 9 December 2014.
  7. ^ Trujillo, Maria (25 November 2011). "Wikipedia and Higher Education – The Infinite Possibilities". University of British Columbia. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  8. ^ Bunim, Juliana. "UCSF First U.S. Medical School to Offer Credit For Wikipedia Articles". University of California, San Francisco. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
  9. ^ Beck, Julie (5 March 2014). "Doctors' #1 Source for Healthcare Information: Wikipedia". The Atlantic. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
  10. ^ a b Varnum, Gregory (5 June 2015). "Wikimedia Foundation Board election results are in". Wikimedia blog. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  11. ^ a b "Resolution:James Heilman Removal". Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees. 28 December 2015. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
  12. ^ Kleinz, Torsten (29 December 2015). "Wikimedia Foundation feuert Vorstandsmitglied". Heise Online. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  13. ^ Chan, Katie; Sutherland, Joe (20 May 2017). "Results from the 2017 Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees elections". Wikimedia blog. Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved 13 July 2017. The results from this year’s community selection of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees are in! Congratulations to María Sefidari (User:Raystorm), Dariusz Jemielniak (User:pundit), and James Heilman (User:Doc James) for receiving the most community support. They will begin the three-year terms being filled through this process after they are officially appointed by the current trustees, which will occur at their August meeting at Wikimania 2017.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ "James Heilman, MD, CCFP-EM". University of British Columbia. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  15. ^ McClurg, Lesley; Brooks, Jon (3 November 2016). "Should You Use Wikipedia for Medical Information?". KQED. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
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  18. ^ MacDonald, Sally (16 June 2014). "Five family doctors closing down their Cranbrook practices". Cranbrook Daily Townsman.
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  23. ^ Heilman, JM; West, AG (4 March 2015). "Wikipedia and medicine: quantifying readership, editors, and the significance of natural language". Journal of Medical Internet Research. 17 (3): e62. doi:10.2196/jmir.4069. PMC 4376174. PMID 25739399.
  24. ^ Brooks, Jon (22 December 2016). "Wikipedia Handles Fake News With Humans, Not Algorithms". KQED. Retrieved 4 June 2017.
  25. ^ a b Cohen, Noam (12 June 2012). "Book That Plagiarized From Wikipedia Is Pulled From Market". New York Times. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
  26. ^ Teigen, Sarah (October–November 2012). "Medical translations for minority languages" (PDF). Multilingual. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 12, 2014. Retrieved January 12, 2014 – via TranslatorsWithoutBorders.org.
  27. ^ Yeung, Lien (21 August 2014). "Wikipedia's medical errors and one doctor's fight to correct them". CBC News.
  28. ^ Sankin, Aaron (1 October 2013). "Doctors prescribe better editors for Wikipedia—themselves". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
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  34. ^ Sluizer, Jan (3 December 2014). "Medical Students Learn to Treat Ailing Wikipedia Entries". Voice of America. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  35. ^ a b "Keeping the facts straight". Cranbrook Daily Townsman. 20 November 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
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  38. ^ a b "Sask. MD's Wikipedia posting of ink blots angers psychologists". CBC News. 31 July 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  39. ^ a b Cohen, Noam (28 July 2009). "A Rorschach Cheat Sheet on Wikipedia?". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  40. ^ "Psychologists see red over inkblot test posting". CTV News. 31 July 2009. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  41. ^ Cohen, Noam (23 August 2009). "Complaint Over Doctor Who Posted Inkblot Test". New York Times. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
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  43. ^ "Mangalore professor in plagiarism row". New Indian Express. 11 November 2013. Retrieved 21 August 2015.
  44. ^ "[Wikimedia-l] Announcement about changes to the Board". wikimedia.org. Retrieved 7 January 2016.
  45. ^ Lih, Andrew (15 January 2016). "Wikipedia just turned 15 years old. Will it survive 15 more?". The Washington Post. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  46. ^ Orlowski, Andrew (12 January 2016). "Wikimedia Foundation bins community-elected trustee". The Register. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  47. ^ Noisette, Thierry. "Crise à la fondation Wikimedia : sa directrice démissionne". Nouvel Observateur.
  48. ^ Koebler, Jason (15 February 2016). "The Secret Search Engine Tearing Wikipedia Apart". Vice. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  49. ^ Kolbe, Andreas (7 June 2017). "Golden handshakes of almost half a million at Wikimedia Foundation". The Register. Retrieved 10 October 2017.
  50. ^ Cohen, Noam (September 9, 2012). "Travel Site Built on Wiki Ethos Now Bedevils Its Owner". New York Times. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  51. ^ Morris, Kevin (6 September 2012). "Wikimedia announces travel site, launches countersuit against competitor". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  52. ^ Musil, Steven (17 February 2013). "Wikimedia, Internet Brands settle Wikivoyage lawsuits". CNET. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
  53. ^ McClurg, Lesley (2016-11-08). "Should I Trust Wikipedia With My Health?". NPR. Retrieved 2017-09-09.
  54. ^ Chatterjee, Anwesh, Cooke, Robin M.T., Furst, Ian, Heilman, James (23 June 2014). "Is Wikipedia's medical content really 90% wrong?". Cochrane Collaboration. Retrieved 9 December 2014.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  55. ^ Bateman, Oliver Lee (2017-02-01). "Wikipedia Is Being Ripped Apart By a Witch Hunt For Secretly Paid Editors". Motherboard. Retrieved 2017-10-10.
  56. ^ O'Meara, Dina (24 April 2006). "Mind over mountain". Western Standard. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  57. ^ "Surviving the Gobi march". Moose Jaw Times-Herald. July 4, 2008. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 20, 2015.
  58. ^ "28th Annual Saskatchewan Marathon". Saskatoon StarPhoenix. 29 May 2006. Retrieved 22 August 2015. [permanent dead link]

External links

  • James Heilman publications indexed by Google Scholar
  • User account on Wikipedia
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