The idea for the UCSF Wikipedia project, which has some very talented and energetic people behind it (emails typically get answered after midnight), is to harness the knowledge and creativity of very smart 4th year medical students. If they choose to take the elective, which is of course an optional part of the curriculum, they adopt an article from the list of articles on medical topics that have been rated "important" and also not ranked as one of the higher-quality articles. And then with some education and faculty help, they hopefully drag it up to a higher quality rating. Here is some more information about the elective and the people behind it:
What the students get out of the experience is a work in progress, in more ways than one. They universally like it, they have the opportunity to master the topic that the article was based on, they feel as though they were making a contribution (very important in the Wikipedia world, which is well represented with zealots), and they learn editing skills. Wikipedia editing skills are actually sort of low level programming skills, but they are geeky and clumsy enough to make most people shy away from editing.
Key to the Wikipedia editing process is the understanding of how it views itself. It was intended to be a tertiary source -- an openly-edited encyclopedia that is neutral and does not have a point of view to offer in its articles. There is no room for opinion -- if you state something as an opinion, it will get yanked by another editor or promptly deleted if it gets through the first level of review. Everything must be referenced, and hopefully with an agreed-upon high-quality reference. The students act as primary sources (writers or, if you will, editors) who research secondary sources (references or citations), and then create a tertiary source -- an encyclopedia.
This is not something that fits well into the medical world, which is quite top-down -- anathema to the Wikipedia crowd. If you read a medical review article or a book chapter, it is written by an expert whose job is not only to know the research on which his field is based, but, importantly, to offer opinion that ties the research together and fills in the holes with experience. But Wikipedia medical articles are anonymous, at least until you start drilling down into the talk page, which only the committed will do. Theoretically, everyone can be the (anonymous) expert.
The details about WikiProject Medicine, of which this elective is a little piece, are here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:MED I will try to summarize. The best articles are rated FA (Featured Articles -- gold star!). When about 25,000 medical articles were rated for importance, only 114 were FA; of the 1025 that were considered as top or high in importance (the remaining 2 of the 4 categories are mid or low importance), only 27 were in the FA category and an additional 52 were Good. All the remainder fell into B (not too bad, really), C, "Start", or "Stub" -- the latter two meaning that there was not really much information in the article. To put another way, about 22,500 of the 25,000 articles were C or worse, and about 650 of the 1025 top/high importance articles were C or worse.
To make it sound as bad as it actually is, a majority of the articles that were considered top/high importance articles were C or worse, and only about 10% were in the best (FA) category. Now if you are looking up an article on Charles W. Eliot, it is probably not all that important -- you may get some incorrect facts, but nobody will be harmed. On the other hand, if your aunt is diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and you do what a majority of people in the world currently do and run to the Internet, i.e., Wikipedia, you will encounter an article that is both high in importance, but only B in quality. Hopefully you have a hematologist/oncologist on the case and no harm will result, but you could get some incorrect, unbalanced, or incomplete information. And for many medical articles, you will get some incorrect information. If you are like me (until recently) you have never clicked on that folder tab in the top left-hand corner labelled "talk" which will give you some juicy chatting and a rating that senior editors in Wikipedia have given the article. But what is the alternative? The other medical sites are skimpy, spotty, often amusingly shallow and dippy, and often downright dangerously opinionated with an ax to grind.
More to come...sorry.