Leila Hesselson

Career Israel
Name: Leila Hesselson
Hometown: Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada
Employer: SickKids Hospital
Program: Career Israel
What was the highlight of your internship?
I worked in a genetics lab at Tel Aviv University. I enjoyed working closely with a PhD student on her thesis project as well as spending time learning from other students in the lab. People in my lab were willing to teach and mentor me throughout my time in the lab. I am very thankful for all the time they dedicated to me. I still keep in e-mail contact with people in my lab.
What skills/lessons/etc did you take away from your internship that you still use today?
I am applying the skills and techniques that I learned in the lab to my research position now.
Is there a story or anecdote that you can share that reflects your experience in Israel?
When I went to Israel I did not know Hebrew, I only knew enough to get me through my Bat mitzvah portion. As you can imagine, there were not a lot of Hebrew schools in Battleford, Saskatchewan. For my 3-week ulpan I was placed in Aleph echat. After I completed my ulpan I signed up to do private Hebrew classes with a teacher. After my private lessons I always had homework to do, specifically I had to work on my oral pronunciation. One afternoon I was sitting in the lab reciting my new Hebrew words for the week and one of the masters students in my lab was sitting dissecting a mouse ear beside me. As he was working away he was listening to me recite my Hebrew sentences paying particular attention to my pronunciation as he was taking the time to correct me along the way.  Talk about multitasking!
What are you up to now?
Since returning to Canada, I have been working at SickKids hospital in Toronto, doing medical research with a neuro-oncologist. This fall I will begin medical school. In addition, I have started a book compilation project with Canadian Hadassah-WIZO. I am looking for stories in two categories, from either people who have travelled to remote and distant locations and connected with local Jewish populations, or Jewish travellers who have shared a unique experience with other Jewish travellers in remote pockets of the world while, for example, backpacking in South America or trekking in Nepal. I aim to publish a book with 50 such illuminating stories celebrating Jewish life from a Canadian perspective. The deadline has passed, however, I am still accepting submissions.
Has your time in Israel impacted your career/future plans?
Before going to Israel I knew that I wanted to apply to medical school. I thought that Israel would give me the opportunity to gain work experience as well as enjoy the opportunity to live in a new environment with local Israelis as well as other interns from around the world. I developed my book compilation project shortly after returning from Israel. Growing up in a remote location in Canada and meeting Jewish people from around the world sparked my interest in learning more about how Jewish people celebrate Jewish life in distant pockets of the world. All the proceeds from my book will go to Canadian Hadassah-WIZO whose mandate is to support a multitude of programs and projects for Children, Healthcare and Women in Israel and Canada.
If you could meet any Israeli from any point in history, who would it be and why?
I would say Yitzhak Rabin. He won the Nobel Peace Prize and came the closest to making peace.  I would like to find out what motivated him and gave him such a hopeful outlook. He would definitely be someone I would enjoy chatting with over a coffee at Aroma.