» Go to news main

Grad profile: Annie Jacob

Posted by Jane Doucet on May 30, 2024 in News
Annie Jacob (DDH'24) (Bruce Bottomley photos)

As a little girl in Kerala, India, Annie Jacob (DDH’24) received a toy dentistry kit as a gift. Although she didn’t enjoy going to the dentist ("scary, bright lights, big chair"), she did have fun using the kit to check her parents’ teeth. It planted the seed for her to consider dentistry as a profession. When she was ready to explore post-secondary options, however, she faced a dilemma: after getting accepted into a dentistry program in India, cousins in Saskatchewan encouraged her to come to Canada.
"I had always wanted to study abroad, and I was also interested in pharmacy," says Jacob. In 2016, she moved to Barrie, ON, to begin the two-year pharmacy technician program at Georgian College. "I was only 17, but I was excited because I love an adventure," she says. Her plan? To study in Canada, then return to India to work, and to pursue dentistry or dental hygiene there in the future.
Like many best-laid plans, Jacob’s had unexpected twists and turns—and one heart-wrenching personal decision—but a happy outcome.
A time of options
While working at a Lawtons pharmacy in Kentville, N.S., from 2018 to 2020, Jacob began taking pharmacy prerequisite courses at Acadia University. After becoming a permanent resident in 2020, she met with a Dal student advisor for pharmacy, and one for dental hygiene. In January 2021, she returned to India to marry Midhun, whom she had met in Barrie but was also from India.
The next month, Jacob discovered she was pregnant. "I wasn’t brave enough to continue studying while I was pregnant," says. "I decided to apply to the dental hygiene program, and if I got in, I’d go for it. Deep in my heart, I knew I wanted to work in dentistry."
In May 2021, the couple moved to Halifax, where Midhun opened a South Asian grocery store and Jacob resumed prerequisite courses at Dal. Baby Jeremy was born in October. In December, Jacob took Jeremy to India to meet his extended family. At the end of April, she applied to the DDH program, and was accepted while she was in India. Two days later, she got an email saying she had been moved to the waiting list. A week after that, another email confirmed she had a secure spot.
"It was an emotional roller coaster!"says Jacob. "Was I happy or sad? I had a six-month-old baby. It was so stressful." With Midhun’s support, Jacob started the program at the end of August, but they didn’t have childcare. Her parents moved in with the young family. After two weeks, her dad returned to India, with her mother staying for a few months. Then Midhun’s mother took over. Finally, in May 2023, Jeremy had a daycare spot.

The toughest decision
"It was a hard first semester, and hard after our parents left," says Jacob. "Jeremy was getting sick, I was getting sick, and I couldn’t see patients with a runny nose. But I was determined to do the program." Jacob’s mother returned to help with Jeremy three days a week, with two days at daycare to keep his spot. Then, Jacob’s maternal grandmother got sick.
Jacob had two semesters left, and a tough decision to make. "I wanted my mum to be with her mother, so we decided that she would go and take Jeremy with her." Jacob flew to India with her mother and son, dropped them off, then flew back to Halifax. She missed only three days of classes. "All of my professors were so supportive," she says. "I cried the whole flight home and for a month after. When we Facetimed Jeremy, he wouldn’t talk to me for a few days. The mom guilt was terrible."
Luckily, Jeremy adjusted quickly and told everyone that his mommy was studying and that he would be going home when she had finished school. Now when they Facetimed, he asked to see her classroom and her friends. He was away from November 2023 to April 2024.
"When he came home, it felt like nothing had changed," says Jacob. “When I was sad and missing him, I thought, this time with him is a gift for my family—that’s how I consoled myself. He met my cousins, who had children his age, and learned our language and our culture. He has good memories of his time there."
Jacob has good memories of the program, too, especially her community-outreach work in long-term-care homes. "I could really feel the need there, for the residents to have someone to hear them beyond oral health care," she says. "They would want to tell their stories, and I enjoyed listening."
In July, Jacob will start working as a dental hygienist at a family practice in Bedford. First, there was a very special convocation ceremony, with Jeremy crossing the stage with her. "It’s not just me graduating—it’s also my husband, our mums, and Jeremy," she says. "I’ve been dreaming about this moment."