Florida A&M University professor of pharmacy Jamal Brown went viral on TikTok for singing and playing keyboards while teaching a diabetes lesson in his therapy class — a mini performance that reached tens of thousands of viewers.
The 25-second clip has over 96,000 views on the social media platform after a FAMU student recorded and posted it on the Friday after their class session on Tuesday, January 17th.
“I’ve been singing and playing the piano since I was a kid, so I’ve been doing it for years,” said Brown, 35, a FAMU alumnus. “I would have trouble remembering things, so if I turned it into a song, I would be more likely to remember. It’s just that nobody recorded me in class singing before.”
The short song’s lyrics are “insulin secretion, suppressing glucagon, slowing down my eating, my brain says I’m full”.
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Brown – a Tallahassee native who lives in Tampa, Florida, with his wife Carmen Brown and 2-year-old daughter Olivia Brown – graduated from the university’s School of Pharmacy in 2011 along with his wife and is a full-time professor at FAMU since 2015 .
He often conducts his class of third-year Doctorate of Pharmacy students virtually, via Zoom, while his students watch from their seats in a classroom on the FAMU campus.
But his arrival as he walked through the university’s classroom doors, keyboard in hand after a four-hour drive from Tampa came as a shock to his students on all fronts.
Celestine Chandler, a FAMU doctoral student at the College of Pharmacy in Kingstree, South Carolina, says Brown always “does his best for us.” She added that he was instrumental in reassuring her that she can get back on track in the pharmacy program after taking a break due to some challenges.
“He said, ‘I’m going to make sure you have a good understanding of diabetes,’ and when he taught us this song, it was just the icing on the cake,” said Chandler, 54. “He has always been an advocate of encouraging students to remain there.”
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Tamia Martin, another third-year student on the show, expressed her surprise at the video’s popularity.
“Honestly, I was really shocked because I really didn’t expect this,” said Martin, 23, from Aurora, Colorado. “Over the weekend, the views increased by the thousands. I also appreciated that people really cared about the content in the video because it sparked their interest in the pharmacy.”
A web platform called AfroTech reposted Martin’s video on Saturday on its Instagram page, where it received more than 58,000 views. FAMU also reposted the video on their Instagram page on Monday, which has received an increasing number of over 6,000 views in less than an hour and is currently at over 58,000 views as well.
“It wasn’t even about the music”
Brown dedicated his diabetes talk to his mother Jacquelyn Williams Brown, who was born in Gadsden County and battled Type 2 diabetes before passing away in 2019 at age 67.
“I was really excited because this was the first time I had the opportunity to teach diabetes to pharmacy students in the classroom, so I did it all in his honor,” said Brown. “That’s what made me really passionate about the way I was teaching. She was just an amazing lady who taught me so much.”
His mother, who was a choir director, taught him to sing and play the piano.
Brown also comes from a musical family, as his father William Brown and brother Rashad Brown are FAMU alumni who were members of the university’s Marching “100” band.
“The music is cool and catchy,” Brown said, “but for me, it wasn’t even about the music. It was an opportunity to talk about type 2 diabetes and how it affects the black community and everyone else. There are a lot of people who know someone who has had a leg amputated or someone who is on insulin.”
Statistics show that more than 2 million people in Florida – 12.5% of the adult population – have been diagnosed with diabetes, and blacks are 60% more likely than whites to be diagnosed with the disease.
Diabetes is mainly caused by a person’s body not having enough of the hormone called insulin, which is needed for energy, such as glucose, to be absorbed by the cells. Type 2 diabetes causes energy to stay in the bloodstream, which leads to high blood sugar.
Prevention methods, such as exercise, can help insulin reach your blood cells more quickly. Limiting carbohydrate intake, such as rice, pasta, bread, and sweets, and eating more green vegetables can also help ensure that a person’s blood sugar doesn’t get too high, according to Brown.
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In addition to being able to publicize diabetes, Brown hopes the viral video will entice more students to attend the university’s school of pharmacy.
“People might think this learning style is a bit silly or a joke,” Brown said. “If someone walks into a classroom and hears a lot of noise, laughter and singing, it is somehow interpreted as a lack of professionalism. But for me, it’s just the opposite. If that’s how people can learn and have fun, let’s do it.”
Contact Tarah Jean at [email protected] or follow her on twitter @tarahjean_.
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