Meet Alexa Hecht, Class of 2021
Growing up in Winnipeg, new graduate Alexa Hecht was inspired by the prospect of becoming an optometrist after watching two close adults in her life lead rewarding careers in the profession.
“Through their experiences, I saw how optometrists were able to help people, while still having a good work-life balance,” said Hecht. “I liked that. It made me think that optometry could be a career that I’d really love.”
Now at the end of the program, Hecht is happy she trusted her instincts. On the verge of graduation, she is confident optometry will be a fulfilling career she can shape alongside her interests in the field over time.
While reflecting on her four years at Waterloo, Hecht says working directly with patients in her final year provided her with some of her favourite moments. “Sometimes in those early years, it’s hard to see the finish line when you’re deep in so many difficult courses,” said Hecht. “But, for me - when I got to fourth year and started helping patients, it all just came together.”
Aside from her academic achievements, Hecht is most proud of her position as a Board Trustee for the American Optometric Student Association, an organization committed to enhancing the education and well-being of optometry students. In this volunteer role, she participated in Board meetings, planned events and connected with optometry students across North America. Hecht appreciated the opportunity to give back to her fellow students, while also broadening her network within the profession.
“[Serving as a Trustee] gave me the chance to see the world of optometry as a whole,” said Hecht. “I got to bring knowledge back to my classmates, which helped us to be excited about optometry in the larger world – beyond just our Waterloo bubble.”
When asked what words of wisdom she would pass along to new students, she didn’t hesitate - her advice to the next generation of optometry students is to trust that you belong. “Being in this competitive program alongside 90 other brilliant students, I found it was really easy in my first year to develop that imposter syndrome mentality,” said Hecht. “I’d ask myself - do I really deserve to be here? Did they really mean to choose me?”
“I had to stop and remind myself – I belong here. I know I am capable and that I can do this.”
For now, Hecht has settled in Toronto to start where she will work in private practice and continue to run her optometry lifestyle Instagram account @lifeandlashes, where she answers questions from young people considering optometry.
She is looking forward to her bright future as an optometrist. “I’d love to own my own business one day, because I especially love helping people and being able to establish one-on-one connections with my patients,” said Hecht. “I’m not sure where it’s going to be, or what it will look like exactly – but I do envision it to be a fashion-friendly environment!”