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Boy band: Anti-smoking campaign more than a class project

By Crystal Baity
ECU News Services

Physician assistant graduate students Joe Bartholomew, Sean Russell, Justin Adams and Adam Rhodes formed a boy band to complete a class assignment on disease prevention. Photo by Michelle Messer.
GREENVILLE, N.C.   (July 30, 2012)   —   Four East Carolina University graduate students transformed an ordinary class assignment into a boy band music video with a message.

Sean Russell of Raleigh, Joe Bartholomew of Rolesville, Justin Adams of Fayetteville and Adam Rhodes of Jacksonville, classmates in the physician assistant studies program, formed BOY BANDemia to warn others about the dangers of smoking.

Their title song, “I’ll Quit But Not Today” is a parody of the ’90s Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way.”

“It’s cheeky and hilarious but great, and actually gets the message across,” said Julie Daniel-Yount, clinical supervisor in physician assistant studies. “Rather than a quick and dry skit, they outdid themselves and took a different approach.”

The band is on Facebook at and has been featured on several sites including the American Heart Association.

“We wanted to be very creative,” Bartholomew said. “We had had the idea for a boy band. We just hadn’t been able to find an excuse to implement it.”

An assignment to create an anti-smoking campaign for their health promotion/disease prevention course provided the opportunity.

With a target population of adolescent teenagers, the group believed a “fear factor” approach, while popular among anti-tobacco groups, wouldn’t lead to true behavior modification by savvy youngsters.

Their goal was to promote healthy behavior and prevent disease through the use of media.

“We discussed what we remembered to be the most influential media of our adolescence,” according to the group’s Facebook page. “We kept bringing up the topic of ‘music.’ That's when the light bulb went off in the room. We could be a boy band!”

They shared the idea with Laupus Library’s Michelle Messer, who shot photographs for their video.

They met Messer at their favorite study spot outside her fourth floor office where she works as collection development coordinator, handling acquisitions and other duties for the library.

“We call her our manager,” Russell said. “She’s done a lot of work for us.”

Messer doesn’t mind the descriptor. She has helped get the group on several blogs, Facebook and Twitter pages. She checks the YouTube site daily; the video has broken 5,000 hits.

“I’ve tried to spread the word. We did have a viewing (of the video) here at the library,” she said. “Everything has been positive. It’s a good message and they are already working on a second song.” 

The group’s name “bandemia” is a medical term that describes an increased number of white blood cells in the body. White blood cells are the body’s “infection fighters” produced in bone marrow. The band hopes their message will be infectious, they say.   

The students spent about three weeks on the assignment working around family obligations, regular course work and attendance. “These guys study all the time. Three of the guys are married and two have children,” Messer said. “To maintain a family, marriage and grades, and to have fun making a video in a boy band, I have a lot of respect for them.”

The work has been worth it, band members said. “We didn’t want our outreach to be limited to one single presentation for a letter grade in a classroom,” said their Facebook page. “Realizing that smoking is the number one risk factor for the leading causes of death in this country, we wanted to truly make an impact.”

While many allied health students are creative and passionate about improving the health of their patients, Daniel-Yount said the group surprised her with their effort and ability to entertain and educate. Their fellow students loved it, she added. 

“I don’t know how many hours it must have taken to formulate this idea, write lyrics, rehearse, organize videography and photography, record, and then make and edit the video, but I can tell you that it was no small feat for a group of four full-time PA students who are in their third semester of a very fast-paced and challenging curriculum,” said Daniel-Yount. “This assignment was not in my course, but I have taught the course in the past, and this is by far the most work I’ve seen put into this type of project.”

Bartholomew, Rhodes and Russell all received bachelor’s degrees from ECU. Adams graduated from Brigham Young University – Idaho. They expect to graduate in December 2013.
“The only one of us who can really sing is Adam,” Bartholomew said of Rhodes, who has been in a band for five years.

A quote on the group’s Facebook page sums up their goal, Russell said. “If this video makes you laugh, then it has done its job. If it makes you quit smoking, then we’ve done ours.”

Pictured on the cover of their "album" are physician assistant graduate students Sean Russell, Justin Adams, Joe Bartholomew and Adam Rhodes. Photo by Michelle Messer.
Pictured on the cover of their "album" are physician assistant graduate students Sean Russell, Justin Adams, Joe Bartholomew and Adam Rhodes. Photo by Michelle Messer.


Contact: Crystal Baity | 252-744-3764