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Baldwin doctor John Clarke raps against disease

Dr. John Clarke raps for students at Garden

Dr. John Clarke raps for students at Garden City Middle School about the dangers of melanoma. (May 24, 2012) Credit: Ursula Moore

Hundreds of sixth graders at Garden City Middle School agreed with Dr. John Clarke’s premise -- rap music can be a great way to reach a young mind.

They nodded their heads and clapped their hands on Thursday morning as Clarke performed his original song “Melanoma Rap,” part of the Sun Safety Presentation:

Stop melanoma
Please don’t forget
Use sunscreen
Do a skin check

Clarke, 40, medical director for the Long Island Rail Road, is the creator of HealthHop, a music genre that educates people through hip hop.

"It's a lot of fun to rap for me," said Clarke, who lives in Baldwin. "It's always interesting because kids assume a doctor rapping is corny, and they are shocked by me doing hip hop. The kids always have a great time while they are learning from my music."

The Baldwin resident received his B.A. in sociology and music from Columbia University and his medical degree from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan.

Clarke, who has rapped about HIV, drug and alcohol prevention, sickle cell, psoriasis and the H1N1 flu, came up with the idea for educating kids through rap during his first year as a resident in training at Jamaica Hospital in Queens in 1997. Since then the reactions from the kids have kept him going.

“Last year, I performed at Garden City Middle School,” remembered Clarke. I went back to the school the next day and one kid gave me a high five and said I was awesome.”

Kelly O’Keeffe, 12, said the morning assembly was one she will not soon forget.

“It’s better to rap about melanoma than just stand there and talk about it. I liked the rap song a lot,” she said.

The program also featured Garden City-based dermatologist Dr. Theodore Daly and Garden City’s Jack Biggane, whose daughter Mollie Biggane died from melanoma at the age of 20. The Mollie Biggane Melanoma Foundation was later created in her memory.

Student Antonella D’Amelio, 11, said she will take Thursday’s lessons to heart.

“I am going to take his [Clarke’s] advice and protect myself from the sun. I will definitely put on sunscreen,” she said.

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