Oct. 23, 2015 – The rough and tumble action of a college football field is a far cry from the hospital setting where young cancer patients gather around a piano as a former quarterback and current law student leads them in song.
Jacob Karam, a second-year student at the University of Houston Law Center, started volunteering at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital while playing quarterback for the University of Memphis Tigers and plans to continue at MD Anderson Cancer Center while pursuing his J.D.
“My whole life I had heard about St. Jude Research Hospital in Memphis because the founder of the hospital, Danny Thomas, was of Lebanese descent like my family,” said Karam.
He visited the patients every month and in addition to playing piano he would also help with arts and crafts, make snacks, and do anything else that was needed.
“I enjoyed entertaining the patients and their families at the long-term patient care apartments called the Target House,” he said. “I wanted to get involved because I love volunteering and kids and the hospital’s mission of finding a cure for cancer and treating all pediatric cancer patients for free has always been inspirational to me.”
Karam’s mother encouraged him to play the piano while he was still in kindergarten.
“I would have preferred playing basketball, baseball, or football instead of practicing piano,” he said. “But the rule in our house was that we had to learn Spanish and we had to play piano.”
Karam said his mother, an El Paso native, encouraged him to speak Spanish because she believed it is an asset that will help him on many levels throughout his life.
“My mom also would tell me that I would thank her one day for not letting me quit the piano,” he said. “Now that I love music, I thank her all the time.”
As a graduate student earning his masters in liberal arts with an emphasis on law at Memphis, Karam earned national honors for his public service, receiving the Allstate Good Works Team award in 2013 for his work at St.Jude. But he gained wider recognition when a YouTube video of him playing piano while a young patient sang along went viral.
At UHLC, he is currently president of Advocates for Life and is also a member of the Advocates, Ambassadors, and the Student Bar Association. He hopes to work in litigation for a big law firm after graduation. “I want to learn as much as I can from the senior attorneys and develop my skills while contributing as much as I can to the business,” he said.
“I have always been drawn to being a trial lawyer because I like the preparation and strategy that it entails,” he said. “It is comparable to football; you put in countless hours developing a game plan and then execute on game day. Hopefully my experiences as a college quarterback will help me find success in the court room.”