Living the American Dream

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AFTER LIVING IN OTHER PLACES ALL OVER THE WORLD, LAYLA AND DR. HESHAM HAZIN ARE VERY GRATEFUL FOR THE SENSE OF COMMUNITY THEY HAVE FOUND WHILE LIVING RIGHT HERE IN TEXARKANA, USA  

by AMBER SMITH ZALISKI

 
  photo my Molly Kendrick

photo my Molly Kendrick

Who doesn’t love the narrative of the small-town kid chasing a big-city dream? It’s inspiring, and we have so many success stories of Texarkana natives that have “made it big” in their chosen field. There is also a lot to be said, however, for everything that is offered right here at home. Three years ago, Dr. Hesham and Layla Hazin traded big-city life for a big backyard, and they believe that Texarkana, Texas, USA, is the perfect place to raise their family.

Hesham, affectionately known as just Hazin to friends and family, is a born and raised New Yorker. Layla, a Canadian citizen, has lived all over the world, from Saudi Arabia and Palestine to Switzerland and Canada. The two met unexpectedly on the other side of the globe, and it did not take long for them to start planning a future together. When Hazin’s best friend from medical school (Layla’s brother) invited him to his wedding, Hazin jumped on a plane to Cairo, Egypt, where he would first see his future wife. “I sort of noticed him noticing me,” Layla said. “Ditto!” Hazin threw in, as they both laughed out loud. During the hustle and bustle of the huge wedding, the two barely spoke to each other, but Layla remembers saying goodbye, and nice to meet you, and I hope you enjoyed the wedding, and of course she remembers Hazin’s reply: “This is the best wedding I’ve ever been to in my life!”

Layla returned to Canada where she was interning as a Junior Policy Analyst in Economic Development in Halifax/Nova Scotia as part of her master’s degree in public administration. About a week later, an email from a vaguely familiar name crossed her screen:

Hi,
This is Hesham Hazin. We met at the wedding. I’m interested in marriage. Do you think we can get to know each other?

“No games, no nothing!” Hazin said as they both laughed, sitting side-by-side on their love seat, his arm around her. “Watching how she conducted herself at the wedding – she was genuine, sincere, caring, and of course beautiful on top of that – I thought she was perfect.”

After emailing back and forth for a month, Layla booked a trip to New York City, and that was it. “We went on one real date, and we were engaged after that,” she said. “It really is true that when you are with that person you just know that it’s right.”

The next year in June of 2006, as soon as Hazin graduated from medical school and Layla finished her master’s degree, the two were married. The Hazins spent the next decade living and working in Brooklyn, New York, welcoming a daughter and two sons into their family. Eventually, they decided it was time to leave. “Well, I guess

I decided,” Layla laughed. “He is a New Yorker. It was hard to get him out of there, but having lived in so many different places, I knew that Brooklyn was not where I wanted to raise our family.”

Three years ago, on their wedding anniversary, the Hazins spent their first official night in Texarkana. Hazin, a board certified M.D. in Oncology, Hematology, and Internal Medicine, accepted the position of Medical Director for the W. Temple Webber Cancer Center at CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System and said he could not have asked for a better work environment. “They have really embraced me and been very responsive to what I need as a physician to bring the next level of oncology care here,” he said. Hardworking and dedicated, Layla said it is easy for her husband to work 100 hours a week and nods in agreement when he says “work is his second marriage.”

  ^ Two years ago, Layla and Hesham and their three kids, Rawya, Ibrahim, and Omar, visited the Staten Island boardwalk. 

^ Two years ago, Layla and Hesham and their three kids, Rawya, Ibrahim, and Omar, visited the Staten Island boardwalk. 

Hazin was drawn to the medical field for many reasons, but ultimately he followed a calling to help people, so it’s easy to see why his work is so important to him. “My dad worked on cars, and I’ve always thought these two fields are very similar – figuring out what is wrong and hopefully being able to fix it,” he said. “And medicine is never stale. Science is always changing. There is always new research to be done, new discoveries to be made, and it will always stimulate you. I love that.”

While the word cancer evokes sadness and probably anger in most of us, Hazin’s job is to face that head-on, and he finds a lot of satisfaction in his work. “I had a great mentor during my residency that led me into this specialty,” he said. “But it is really about the human connection for me. Saving one person from cancer can make my year, and being able to really help people during one of their most vulnerable times, through the transition of before cancer to after cancer, and giving them more time with their family is one of the best feelings in the world.”

For the Hazins, family is what it’s all about, and they believe they have found the perfect community for their children: Rawya (11), Ibrahim (8), and Omar (5), to call home. “I really wanted them to have space to grow up in,” Layla said as she talked about the much smaller, more expensive, one-bathroom house they all shared in Brooklyn. “We love just having a backyard where they can play and have friends over to swim, and the kids really love it here. It might have been the pool that won them over!”

In their free time, the Hazins love to swim together, watch their kids play tennis at the country club, throw on their matching PG shirts and go to a football game, or watch from the audience as their daughter performs at the Silvermoon Children’s Theatre – seemingly simple things that Layla assures you would be a logistical nightmare in Brooklyn. “Texarkana is such a gem, and it makes me sad when people don’t realize it. We love the pace here and how family-oriented the community is.” Besides the weather, Hazin and Layla agree that the best thing about moving to Texarkana is the people. “In New York, it’s normal to fight with your neighbors, but here, everyone was so welcoming, I really thought it was some kind of scam at first,” Hazin laughed. “What is this hustle?” For Layla, the community has been a godsend. “Ten years in New York, and I really did not have a meaningful relationship with another woman or mom,” she said. “Within a few weeks here, people were bringing us food, inviting us into their homes, our kids were playing together. It is amazing to have these kinds of relationships where you are interested in each others’ lives and you care about each others’ kids. It’s much healthier I think.” Layla has also found plenty of opportunities to use her education and experience, working with CASA, St. Michael Friends of the Foundation, Komen Texarkana, Eagle

  ^ Layla’s boarding school in Leysin, Switzerland, was literally in the Alps. This photo was taken in 1998, and she lived there for three years, calling it “the greatest adventure of my life.” 

^ Layla’s boarding school in Leysin, Switzerland, was literally in the Alps. This photo was taken in 1998, and she lived there for three years, calling it “the greatest adventure of my life.” 

Impact for TAMU-T, the Texarkana Symphony Orchestra and other organizations. “It has been a great way to get to know people, and there are so many important programs that are working to strengthen every part of our community,” she said. “We are all connected, and if we want to improve our community, we have to do it ourselves. We believe that what you give back is just as important as what you make, and this kind of work is rewarding for me.”

The Hazins weren’t born in Texas, but they are grateful to have found their way here, and Layla, who recently attained U.S. Citizenship, said she couldn’t be more proud. “I love knowing that my family is all together in one place, and my kids won’t bounce around. But since I’ve lived in other places in the world, the biggest thing is security - having rights that no one can take away from me. I am truly living my American Dream right here.” Hazin nods in complete agreement: “Anything is possible.” 

 
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