Homecoming week at UL Lafayette is a tradition, unlike any other.
For many children, going to the dentist or orthodontist can be a terrifying experience. However, for Dr. Leslie Jacobs, going to the orthodontist at a young age changed her life and led her into the career that she is in today. Jacobs ‘95 is originally from Sunset, Louisiana. Growing up, children teased Jacobs about her appearance. Whether it was her freckles, her teeth, or her height, Jacobs was regularly a victim of bullying. “I felt very ugly,” said Jacobs.
Her feelings toward her appearance all changed during her sophomore year of high school when she received a gift from her father that changed the trajectory of her life: braces. After getting braces, Jacobs finally began to feel confident in her skin. The teasing started to subside, and she could finally blossom into the person that she was. From that moment forward, she knew she wanted to go into the field of dentistry to help others feel like their most confident selves too.
When it came to paying for college, Jacobs knew that she would have to find other avenues to assist her with such a significant financial commitment. As soon as she graduated from high school, she decided to join the U.S. Army to pay for her education. She served for a total of eight years, including a tour of duty for Operation Desert Storm. Jacobs credits the military for teaching her discipline and molding her into a better student. “Without that, I would not have excelled the way that I did,” said Jacobs. Jacobs was then able to enroll in the University of Louisiana at Lafayette for her undergraduate degree.
She received her Bachelor of Science degree in 1995 and proceeded to attend dental school at Louisiana State University School of Dentistry. There, she discovered that she could focus on pediatric dentistry as a specialty and decided that it was the perfect complement to her love of helping children. After graduating from dental school, Jacobs established her pediatric dental practice in Lafayette, Louisiana. She has received countless awards including the Pediatric Dentistry Award, the Oral Pathology Award, and is a member of Omicron Kappa Upsilon Honor Dental Society. Jacobs loves having the ability to help children through her dental practice. She also found a way to give back to children through her skills as a writer.
When Jacobs would get teased as a child, her father suggested that she write a story about it as a way to cope with the situation. At seven years old, Jacobs began to write stories about her experiences but through the eyes of animal characters. She would talk with her father about one day getting her stories published, but she never thought that it would happen. Years later, after her father passed away, she remembered the stories she wrote as a child and knew that they could serve as another avenue to give back to children in her community.
Jacobs published her first book The Adventure of the Tall Giraffe and the Short Duck in 2009. The story centered around being short and had an overall message that it is okay to be different. Jacobs wanted 100 percent of the proceeds from the book to go to local children’s charities. After only six months of being published, Jacobs donated $10,000 to Healing House, an organization that provides support and education for grieving children, their caregivers, and the Acadiana community. After the success of her first book, Jacobs published her second children’s book titled Fifi The Freckle Faced Fish. This story is centered around a fish that is embarrassed by her freckles on her face but realizes the importance of embracing her unique qualities. Just as with her first book, Jacobs continues to donate all of the proceeds from this publication to local children’s charities.
As Jacobs continues her career as a pediatric dentist, she will never forget her time as a student at UL Lafayette. Whether it was studying with friends or walking through the oak trees around campus, her time as a Ragin’ Cajun was instrumental to her life journey. Jacobs has shown that with hard work and dedication, you can achieve your dreams and aspirations. However, most importantly, she has shown that giving back and having compassion toward others is what truly makes you a Ragin’ Cajun.
Photo: Dr. Jacobs and her staff.