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Wikipedia Wunderkind: Barbara Page helps readers of the online encyclopedia understand women’s health, among other topics

Barbara Page grew up in a frosty half of northern Michigan recognized for its ski resorts.

“We had a snowmobile and a toboggan,” she stated, including that’s in all probability why most of her 5 siblings moved to Florida.

When she was 15, a public library opened 7 miles from her hometown of Gaylord, a small group 50 miles south of the Mackinac Bridge.

“I’d never seen so many books in one place. I love the smell of books,” Mrs. Page stated, recalling the thrill of testing two chemistry texts earlier than learning that topic as a highschool junior.

By then, a seventh-grade science instructor had fueled her fascination for studying. Now, the 58-year-old is the seventh-most-active medical editor on Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia began in 2001.

Since September 2015, as a visiting scholar at the University of Pittsburgh, Mrs. Page has used her entry to archives, databases and medical journals to put in writing 52 new Wikipedia articles, many of which concentrate on women’s health, her favourite topic. That dovetails together with her pursuit of a nursing diploma at Community College of Allegheny County.

“I have many sandboxes,” she stated. “I think I can help women.”


Wikipedia’s article on rape is seen three,000 occasions a day. Mrs. Page contributed medical content material on the chance of being contaminated with HIV from a rape, how proof is collected from a rape package and what somebody can anticipate when going to a hospital to report a sexual assault. She wrote a separate article about serial rapists.

She prefers a pc display to a big-screen tv. “I don’t watch television. I never liked it,” she stated.

Women make up 20 % of Wikipedia’s writers and editors, whereas about 80 % of Wikipedia articles are written and edited by educated white males who’re of their 30s and stay in America or Europe. That specific demographic, Mrs. Page stated,  is unlikely to write down about uterine prolapse.

“Thirty-year-old men don’t know that’s what grandma’s problem is,” stated Mrs. Page, who doesn’t receives a commission for her Wikipedia contributions.

Mrs. Page started writing for Wikipedia in 2007, after discovering errors in an entry about the monarch butterfly.

“It took me three months to write an article on monarch butterfly migration,” stated the mom of six and grandmother of 4.

On Friday evenings, she may be present in her house doing analysis for articles that she believes “will help you ask your doctor the right questions,” together with topics corresponding to reconstructive surgical procedure after most cancers.

“Lots of strange things can happen as you age. Part of this is self-education,” she stated.

At first, her new interest introduced many challenges.

“I had to learn the coding. I had to learn how to do table formatting. It’s like learning another language,” she stated.

More lately, Mrs. Page contributed to an article about sexually transmitted infections in moms and newborns. Some of the bacterial infections can’t be cultured, making them troublesome to review, she stated. 

“I write a lot of articles about bacteria. I don’t know why I like bacteria,” Mrs. Page stated.


Mrs. Page is one of 9 Wikipedia students who’ve been matched with a college. The Wiki Education Foundation began the visiting scholar program 2½ years in the past, and its aim is to enhance the information and references out there on Wikipedia, stated Ryan McGrady, group engagement supervisor.

“Libraries want their collections that they have spent a lot of money on to have as much impact as possible. And one way to do that is to have them cited on Wikipedia,” stated Mr. McGrady, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

“We got lucky with Barbara. We could not have asked for a better representative of the program. She’s just so enthusiastic and productive,” Mr. McGrady stated.

Nor has Mrs. Page confined her analysis to women’s health. Using the archives at Pitt’s Center for American Music, she expanded the Wikipedia entry on Stephen Collins Foster, one of America’s best-known composers, who was born in Pittsburgh. Besides including info and correcting errors, Mrs. Page appended a picture of the telegram Morrison Foster acquired telling him of his youthful brother’s dying in New York City.

Her abiding ardour for science was sown at Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, Mich., the place she earned a bachelor’s diploma in chemistry and biology in 1980. This yr, by means of her CCAC program, she studied the fundamentals of nursing and visited sufferers at UPMC McKeesport on Fridays, the place she relished working with sufferers her age and older.

“That’s my favorite part. When you’re in the hospital, they’re glad you’re there. You’re taking care of them. You talk about things like Woodstock and landing on the moon. I’m in that generation. The younger students will stand there and look dumbfounded,” Mrs. Page stated.

Ed Galloway, head of the University of Pittsburgh’s Archives Service Center, stated permitting a Wikipedian entry to the faculty’s medical journals, digital content material and archives is a component of a technique. He hopes Mrs. Page’s use of Pitt’s huge collections in her article references will lead web customers to find Pitt’s discovering aids and archives.

“We’re trying to meet our users where they are,” Mr. Galloway stated.


In a approach, Mrs. Page has two masters. Pitt needs her to highlights its educational holdings whereas Wikipedia is keen for her to generate new articles and enhance present articles.

“Ryan wants me to improve articles that reach a certain status. They are featured articles — the best that Wikipedia has to offer,” she stated.

One requirement for a featured article is that it’s “stable,” or correct and dependable. Authors submit the article and a reviewer will recommend additions, deletions and corrections.

“The person who reviews the article will define the stability of the article,” Mrs. Page stated.

But, as a result of any Wikipedian can alter an entry, modifications which might be made usually are not all the time to the writer’s liking.

“I just went back to the rape article. They were moving references and taking out some of my content. That’s almost like vandalism,” Mrs. Page stated.

Marylynne Pitz at mpitz@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1648 or on Twitter: @mpitzpg

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