“I like a challenge”
This is how 1973 Accounting alumnus Jerry Hecht characterized his career trajectory and his recent foray into the realm of patient advocacy. Judging from his actions, we can take Jerry at his word that he means this.
Over the years, Jerry has not shrank from any challenges—from being trained as military medic at seven-year-old with his father during the Suez War in 1956, to solving some of the most vexing investigative challenges given to him by various law firms—he has relished taking action and solving problems his entire life.
Growing up in Israel during the 1950s with pragmatic Hungarian parents—his mother a doctor and his father a tailor—who survived Nazism in Europe, Jerry learned at a very young age that he needed to make his own luck and look out for others.
He immigrated with his family to Los Angeles as an eleven-year-old in 1960 and, as an adolescent, he took the advice of a family friend named Eddie Zipperstein and decided to study accounting. He enrolled at Woodbury in the late 1960s, when it was still located downtown on Wilshire Boulevard.
“Accounting is the language of business,” Jerry said. “It allowed me to understand how business works and get into the minds of people doing business.” Something that would come in handy during his career.
Following graduation, Jerry worked in a series of jobs, starting at the Port of Los Angeles and eventually moving to the IRS. None of it was as interesting or exciting as doing forensic accounting and investigative work which he began to do on behalf of a variety of law firms.
“I told them to give me their hardest cases. I wanted to prove myself,” he said. The work struck a nerve with Jerry, and he was good at it too—often getting to the bottom of cases much faster than his employers expected him to.
Eventually, this work brought Jerry to medical malpractice cases, which eventually led him into the realm of patient advocacy.
“I realized just how often patients are at a disadvantage when they’re in need of health care,” Jerry said. “They’re in vulnerable situations and often don’t have anyone who will look out from them or fight for what they need.”
This is when Jerry, channeling the influence of his parents, decided to make the move fully into patient advocacy. Soon he had friends, and friends-of-friends contacting him to ask him to speak to doctors on their behalf. These efforts often led to better outcomes for the patients and Jerry knew he was on to something. Now, in addition to advocating for patients—his work has been recognized by dozens of people around the world—Jerry also raises awareness about the potential dangers they face from infection contracted in hospitals.
“Most people never comprehend the variety of potential dangers that can exist in hospitals,” Jerry said. “I want to alert people to these hazards.”