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Evidence-Based Decision-Making with a Heart
An interview with Carol Jahn
As a high school senior interested in healthcare, Carol Jahn first considered a career in nursing. However, attracted to the preventive and wellness aspect of dental hygiene, she chose that path instead. And she’s never regretted it.
Today, Jahn, now an educator with Water Pik, Inc., has made significant contributions to the body of literature on dental hygiene and had a relentless drive to standardize and modernize the science of dental hygiene. She has written and edited chapters on interdental aids and evidence-based care in numerous textbooks, including Clinical Periodontology, Clinical Practice of the Dental Hygienist, and Foundations of Periodontics for the Dental Hygienist. Her research into alternative interdental aids has made her one of the leading experts on the topic. Her roles in service to the profession are also noteworthy, holding 18 positions with professional associations. The American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) considers her an institution.
Jahn says she enjoyed private practice during the first 14 years of her career, but by branching out into two other areas she enjoys—writing and speaking—she has been able to use her dental hygiene knowledge to promote good oral healthcare on a broader scale, educating her peers and the public.
Jahn, who is a great believer in education for herself as well as others, found her career propelled in a new direction shortly after entering graduate school for a master’s degree in continuing education. Although she intended to remain in her clinical position while completing her degree, she made the difficult decision to leave her patients and colleagues, eventually responding to a professional journal advertisement for a Professional Education Representative for Water Pik. Looking back on the timing and the fact that she was in graduate school for just that type of job, she has a sense of destiny about that particular sequence of events. “All of those things just fell into place, and when the opportunity was there, the timing just seemed so perfect,” she says.
It’s been 16 years now, but she sees no need to change course from a career she enjoys. Her current position at Water Pik, Inc., she says, involves professional education, continuing education, writing articles and website content, working at trade shows, assisting with videos, and identifying KOLs. “Ultimately, even though I work in a corporate setting, I am still helping patients and that brings me a lot of satisfaction.”
Jahn says she tries to promote what she calls “evidence-based decision making”—that is, combining research with wisdom, experience, and intuition. “I hope to be known for teaching courses on methods supported by science but that also are pragmatic and forward-thinking on how to reconnect with patients in a different way, too.”
She has been especially gratified by the opportunity to be part of a team that has revived the 50-year-old water flosser, dispelling misinformation and promoting use of this important oral health tool. “It’s been great being able to help patients understand what the Water Pik is and what it can do, and also to drive research. I’ve always felt it was up to dental professionals to help patients find a better way to care for their oral health with other products as well as ours.”
Jahn is clearly enjoying a career that combines her commitment to oral health with the ability to develop and publicize solutions. “I love almost every aspect of what I do. It keeps me moving in a forward direction.” And she sees no need to stop. “I plan on staying with Water Pik as long as they’ll have me.” She looks to professional superstar Dr. Esther Wilkins, now 96, as “an icon, a touchstone,” who through her textbooks and continuing involvement in the profession embodies a spirit she’d like to emulate. “What I really admire about her is her tenacity, her spirit, her ability to keep working. She creates that reality that you can do what you want, however long you want.”
Her advice to others is to make a conscious effort to determine their own strengths and to actively pursue opportunities. “Take some time to figure out what you are good at, and don’t just sit around and wait for opportunities to come to you. Get out there and make a name for yourself, pay attention.”
She also says, “And don’t underestimate or undervalue the importance of being a member of ADHA,” which, she says, continues to be a valuable source of information and networking.