Jacobs joins alma mater, works on ‘people’s smiles’

Patricia Robinson

Karen Jacobs, a 1993 Missouri Southern graduate, has returned to the University. This time, however, she is the one giving assignments.

Jacobs, an instructor of dental hygeine, graduated from Southern with an associate’s degree in dental hygiene.

“I always loved people’s smiles and was curious what was going on where I couldn’t see,” Jacobs said. “I never wanted to do anything else.”

Growing up in northwest Arkansas, Jacobs said Southern was the closest school for dental hygiene. She chose the University for another reason. Jacobs said Southern was well-known for having a good dental hygiene program.

Southern offers dental hygiene courses via satellite in connection with Rolla, Mo., and Sikeston, Mo. The classes offered consist of a lecture and a lab. Rhonda White, assistant professor of dental hygiene, teaches the lectures. Jacobs conducts the labs that follow.

Jacobs started her career soon after graduating. She went into private practice for 14 years before teaching.

Jacobs didn’t necessarily choose to teach for the University, Southern chose her.

“I was approached by Dr. [Tia] Strait (dean of the school of technology),” Jacobs said. “It was something that years ago I thought about, but never pursued.”

Jacobs said teaching students through a satellite program does add challenges.

“Reception isn’t good, or things don’t hook up, but we’re working through those bugs,” she said.

Although there can be problems with the connection, it is still a good, familiar environment.

“I went to school on campus, and lectures compare very well, it’s just a different environment,” Jacobs said.

Dental hygiene is a growing career field. With advances in technology, important information can be discovered more quickly.

“We’re finding more and more how oral health affects other parts of the body,” Jacobs said. “Oral disease in conjunction with high blood pressure, can lead to heart attack and stroke.”

Jacobs also said infections in the mouth affect general health and that good oral health is important because it is the first step in digestion.