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Dr. Mustapha explains how he fled his home to come to America, overcame the loss of his brother, cultural expectations and a learning disability to become who he is today. He accomplished all of this by pushing forward. He did all of these things mostly alone.
But, that doesn’t have to be your path. If you are going through the darkness, sometimes having a coach help light the way can help. Reach out to www.mymdcoaches.com
MD Coaches, LLC provides leadership and executive coaching for physicians by physicians to overcome burnout, transition throughout your career, develop as a leader or meet your individual goals. Remember, you are not in this alone. Reach out to us today!
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Today’s Episode is brought to you by Doc2Doc Lending. Doc2Doc provides Match Day loans of up to $25,000 to fourth-year medical students and current residents. These loans are designed to help students cover personal expenses, such as moving costs, housing down payments, and living expenses before and during residency. With fixed interest rates, flexible repayment terms, and no prepayment penalties, Doc2Doc Match Day loans provide financial flexibility and allow students to focus on their exciting journey towards becoming a physician.
Doc2Doc was founded for doctors, by doctors. They understand the challenges and hard work involved in becoming a doctor, and they support doctors throughout their careers. Using their in-house lending platform, Doc2Doc considers the unique financial considerations of doctors that are not typically considered by traditional financial institutions. So, Don’t let financial stress hold you back from achieving your goals – Doc2Doc lending has you covered. Visit https://rxforsuccesspodcast.com/doc2doc to Learn more.
Dr. Mustapha is a board-certified interventional cardiologist who specializes in endovascular revascularization of PVD, specifically CLI. He is co-founder and CEO of Advanced Cardiac and Vascular Amputation Prevention Centers in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. He graduated from Wayne State University and St. George University School of Medicine and has completed Fellowships in both Cardiology and Interventional Cardiology at Louisiana State University School of Medicine. Dr. Mustapha is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology and Fellow of the Society of Cardiac Angiography and Intervention. He serves as Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. Dr. Mustapha speaks internationally on the topic of CLI, alternative access, atherectomy, vessel morphology, calcification and drug eluting technology. He has multiple publications on CLI and limb salvage. Dr. Mustapha is the Founder and Director of the AMPutation Prevention Symposium and is a Founding Board Member of the CLI Global Society.
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Access the Show Transcript Here
Transcript[0:00] I gotta tell you, when you need something and you want it badly, you have no idea how hard you work.
And I think this is probably, someday you should talk about it because I think we doctors or people that come from a place of significant deprivation of everything, food, clothing, money, et cetera, you become almost never satisfied.
No matter how much money you make, how much food is around, it doesn’t matter.
It becomes an addiction.
There are times in our lives that change the way we see the world.
Navigating these challenges can take insight, trusted confidants, or even a coach.
Let’s explore those moments.
In this companion podcast to Rx for Success, we will discover ways to learn and write our own success stories together.
I’m Dr. Dale Waxman, a physician coach with MD Coaches, And this is Life Changing Moments. [1:01] Music. [1:07] What thoughts come up when you consider the notion of perseverance? [1:12] My guest today, Dr. Jihad Mustafa is a living example of this term.
Through a series of several obstacles, surviving a civil war, immigrating to the US, supporting his family back home on minimum wage while also attending college, medical school, and residency with dyslexia and all in a language that he learned along the way.
His story of persistence and determination is inspirational. We’re going to focus on one part of his journey today, but I encourage you to listen to the whole narrative. You can do so by listening to Rx for Success podcast number 67. It is truly remarkable. Jihad, welcome to Life-Changing Moments. Jihad Banji Thank you, Dale. Thank you for having me.
Yeah, and I know that you’re in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Is that right?
Unfortunately, yes, I am in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Right now, I know this is going to get produced a little bit later, but there’s a cold snap going on this week, right?
Yes, starting tonight. I want to bring us back and the listeners, many of whom will not have heard the original story in RX for Success.
Focus here on this show is to kind of bring us up to these inflection points in our lives where we have a branch and we have a decision or sometimes the decisions made for us. [2:37] And you’ve had several of those, but one very significant one, the branch point of going to medical school or going in another direction that you had wished for. And I wonder if you could briefly kind of take us chronologically up to that point, starting with where you were in Lebanon and your immigration story. Sure, you know, At one point when I was in Lebanon, my brother and I were separated from our parents.
So there was no means for us or ways to be in contact with them. At the time, you know, I had finished high school, my brother’s finished high school, and we were within the zone where. [3:21] Israel has occupied Lebanon. And we basically, if we stayed, we’re gonna die, because people were dying everywhere. So I was always the one that took chances and things. So I talked my older brother, 18 months older than me, to go with me to the place where the Israeli army sits. And he thought, no man, we can’t go in there. If they see us walking in, they’ll kill us. So we’re going to die anyway. We don’t have money. We don’t have anything to do here. We don’t have food. And and we can get shot anytime.
So I talked him into it. So we went up and I was crony little thing back then.
I mean, I weighed 142 pounds at the time. I was six one or six two, something like that. I was 15, 16.
We walked in and I was wearing a flip-flop.
He didn’t have shoes on.
And we walked in and of course, like we expected, a lot of guys came toward us.
What do you want? What are you doing? [4:22] I frankly just said, I wanna go to the embassy, American embassy in Israel, I wanna go to America.
Can you help me?
And literally, the guys, just all of them with their weapons toward us in our face, looking at me like, what is wrong with you?
Finally, a few guys came with regular clothes from behind them.
And one guy, his name is Abu Yusuf. I never forget that name.
And hopefully he listens to this is still around. So he works for the Mossad, I think. No, I think that’s the way it is. [4:58] His name is a kick him over and spoke in Arabic and spoke in French was pretty cool, He said hello. I’m Abu Yusuf. What’s your name? I said I’m Jihad. I said whoa what a name, What are you doing here? I said well, I’m Jihad. This is my brother Nabil and our parents wouldn’t know where they are, We don’t have any money. We finished school We think we have papers in the embassy in Israel in Tel Aviv, And can you help us get there and he said what makes you think I want to help you?
He said, I don’t know, that’s why we’re coming to ask you.
He said, okay, come on in. [5:30] And but before you come in, they have to search you right here, so they took off most of our clothes, you know, cups and underwear, checked everything’s fine, put our clothes back on, went in. [5:40] And within like half an hour talking to Abu Yusuf, he’s like, well, can you have everything ready within like a day or two?
Said, what, everything. It’s like, whatever you’re gonna take with you to the embassy.
So we don’t have anything. We don’t have any money either.
Like, well, how are you gonna go to get your tickets, et cetera?
So I said, how much do you think we need to do this? He said, well, based on my understanding for tickets, probably you need a couple thousand dollars.
If you can do that and bring it here, I’ll let you go to the embassy.
So I went back with my brother and walking down the hill.
He’s like, I told you this is not gonna work. I said, no, it’s gonna work.
We’re gonna go to every door in the village and tell people that they owe my parents money to pay us, or if they don’t owe my parents money, to loan us money so we can leave.
He’s like, no, we can’t do that. I said, well, I’m starting with this door.
So actually, literally, I knocked on every door, said, who I am, can you help us?
This is the situation, we can go to America.
And someone will give us $20, someone will give us $10. Literally, within the end of the day, I’ve raised about maybe like $1,200 the second day.
I raised another $800, so we got $2,000.
Came back to Abu Yusuf, this time by myself, because my brother is like scared. [7:02] And I told Abu Yusuf, I have the money, and can we go tomorrow or today? [7:08] He’s like, well, you don’t have time, I don’t. So it was, I think, Tuesday then, and he said, if you can go get your stuff and everything else within an hour, I’ll take you today.
Okay, I’ll be back in an hour.
Ran down got my brother. We didn’t have that much clothes two pants each two shirts each and. [7:28] One shoes and We have a passport and went back to abusive within literally about 35 minutes, And I came back and he’s like, okay good go and send that corner over there and I’ll come and get you in already He came and got us, He took us to a long ride. We got to a point checkpoint between Israel and Lebanon now. We’re up in the mountain and. [7:52] He Said from this car here you sit in the back some guy was driving a truck with food in it Say in the back of the truck this guy will drive to Oitali He’ll drop you by the embassy and you don’t have to pay him anything, but we went through a lot of. [8:08] You know checking check all the clothing, etc Well, the guy took us straight to the embassy actually, and dropped us off, and it wasn’t even four o’clock yet.
We got to the embassy, I jumped out, we thanked the guy, we offered money, he said no.
We went into the embassy, showed our passport, and I said, we’re here to get visa to go to America.
And almost like people would look at me like I’m joking, or I’m not serious, or just something like this.
All it is, I was just thinking only one way, I need to get out of here, I need to start my life, and if I stay here, I’m not gonna go anywhere. So I went to the embassy with all the confidence in the world that I’m gonna get a visa.
And actually I got the visa the same day.
I had to get a physical exam, the doctor said, well, you malnourished, you need to eat something, but you know, that’s the only thing he wrote. Chest x-rays, et cetera.
We got everything we need.
It’s almost unreal, actually. So we got the visa, walked out, after the doctor gave us a report, I told my brother, well, let’s go buy a ticket.
So we went and we found a place. Somebody helped us, you know, to get the place, I bought a ticket.
And we did mine first, because in our culture. [9:25] Your older brother tells you what to do, so he told me, get your ticket first, got it, and I went to get his ticket, wouldn’t have enough money.
So, we only have enough money for my ticket.
Of course, I have to offer back and forth, and it’s like, okay, I’m going, and then we never stayed in a hotel before.
We don’t know what hotels is.
So, the hotel room was gonna be a certain amount of money, who would send my money, et cetera.
By the time we finished doing all the calculations, we had $80 left that we’ll take with me to America.
That includes my brother taking a ride back to the village. Basically, we spent the night in a hotel, and the second day in the morning, just got up, excited, actually I was very excited and happy.
I mean, this is really what I wanna do.
We went to the airport. My brother just left from a point where they told him he can’t go any further, And I went inside, never looked back actually.
Just went inside, got through the immigration part and got onto the plane, never been on a plane before. [10:27] I sat and the plane took off, landed somewhere else, changed planes, next thing I know I landed in New York.
Literally, I was so excited the whole time I didn’t sleep, just excited.
When I landed, no one was expecting me to come and I found my way.
You know, some people speak in French, talk to them. They have to make a phone call and he had one phone number with me.
I made a phone call, somebody came pick me up and that person was like, listen, this is not, you know, the village.
Everybody here takes care of themselves.
So you guys start working tomorrow. You can stay with me for a month, after that you’re on your own. I said, that’s fine.
He took me in for a month and I started working.
In the meantime, I decided to work and save some money if I could.
So I learned how to sell umbrellas on the street and flowers on Broadway on 20th, that was my corner.
And let me tell you, man, first day selling two boxes of umbrellas before it was raining, it wasn’t raining, I sold them both before 10.30 in the morning. [11:32] And I figured, you know, this is cool. I know how to do this game.
So the guy that I worked with, or for actually, who was letting me stay with him, It takes more than half the profit, I take the rest.
And he wanted to say, okay, you sold the box, two boxes go home, I said, no, can you give me two more? [11:52] And basically two more, and within a month, basically I had my own business.
I had moved actually within two weeks, moved out, got on Play, took care of myself, and I started to literally run a business. And actually the rest is history, because I started saving money taking classes in English at night.
Three months after that my brother came.
In the meantime, I was saving money because I need to get a place for us to stay, me and him.
And I gotta tell you, when you need something and you want it badly, you have no idea how hard you work.
And I think this is probably, someday you should talk about it because I think we doctors or people that come from a place of significant deprivation of everything, food, clothing, money, et cetera, you become almost never satisfied, no matter how much money you make, how much food is around, it doesn’t matter.
It becomes an addiction.
So the work ethic that I had back then, where I would work from the morning to night, every day, has not changed.
So anyway, working hard showed me that I can save money. I saved enough to get a place.
When my brother comes in, we go to Deerwood, Michigan.
That’s where we went.
Because our parents, God bless their soul, they both died now. [13:18] Had arranged for a arranged marriage for both of us.
And that really, something was annoying the hell out of me because I was not, I was 16 for God’s sake.
And my brother was 19, close to that.
So he was happy, he liked the girl a lot, and they got engaged. [13:39] And within a few months of being here, He started working at a gas station.
I worked at Big Boy, cleaning the bathrooms, and then became a busboy and a dishwasher.
So I started moving up quickly, and then one night I finished work, and I used to walk back home because I didn’t have a ride yet.
I turned on the morning phone rings, I still remember like it was yesterday, and some man was crying, was the owner of the gas station basically.
He’s telling me your brother was shot and he’s killed and he’s dead.
And it’s almost everything stopped basically, like those moments like you stop hearing things, you know?
It just, your brother died. And I’m not sure what I did, I think I just put the phone down, and just sat on the floor just thinking about what I just heard.
And after that I called him back and I was like, Did you say my brother died? And he said, yes.
And I’m coming to your house. He came and he’s, your brother’s dead.
And he’s got people with him and they’re trying to talk to me.
I have not actually been crying. [14:53] They’re in there just trying to understand what they’re telling me.
So I said, where’s my brother right now?
They told me it’s a place called DMC, that’s trauma center.
And okay, so well, you don’t have to bury him, we’re Muslims, we have to bury him quickly. So how do I do that?
Imagine how my 16 year old brain thinking. [15:17] My brother, I just lost my brother. I know I’m hurting inside a lot.
And I know my father and my mother haven’t found out yet, but the first thing they’re gonna want me to do, is arrange for him to be buried.
So I started to ask elderly people in the area, you know. So everybody was very helpful.
I never actually went to see him in the hospital, never went to, I’m not sure why, to be honest with you, it’s almost like a defense mechanism, you know.
I always felt just have to care of things that need your taking care of, you know?
And I did the right thing. Within 24 hours, I made an arrangement for him to be transferred to Lebanon, and had to find somebody to travel with him because I could not get back there, because the situation not in my favor.
So anyway, I sent my brother to Lebanon and that was the hardest thing is to call my parents and tell them that I got killed and his dad didn’t, You know, they never got over it, to be honest with you.
They never did. Yeah. [16:24] So anyway, he was sent there, they received him, buried him, and life became really dark. [17:06] Today’s episode is brought to you by Doc-to-Doc Lending. Doc-to-Doc provides match day loans of up to $25,000 to fourth year medical students and current residents.
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Doc2Doc Lending has you covered. Visit www.Doc2DocLending.com slash MDCoaches to learn more. [18:26] Music. [18:33] Hi, I’m Rhonda Crowe, founder and CEO for MDCoaches. Here on RX for Success, we interview a lot of great medical professionals on how they grew their careers, how they overcame challenges, and how they handle day-to-day work.
I really hope you’re getting a lot of great information. But if you’re looking for an answer to a specific problem, management or administration challenge, or if you’re feeling just a bit burnt out, like maybe you chose the wrong career, well, then there’s a faster way to get the help you need.
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Rx for Success is produced by MD Coaches, a team of physicians who have been where you are.
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Again, that’s MyMDCoaches.com, because you’re not in this alone. [19:35] We’ll get back to our interview in just a moment, but right now I want to tell you a little bit about Physician Outlook.
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Just in listening to you with that story, and I know that this, what this is leading us to is a section from the RX for success podcast that I’ll play in a moment. But the, were saying, this is a long time ago. And you said it’s still like it was yesterday and how very difficult this is. And that’s a very significant moment in your life that really shifted things. Before we play the segment, I just was curious, you were in school at that point, I think, like a community college. And your idea was what? You were going to be heading for what direction? [21:25] Gosh, man, I was so excited. I couldn’t wait 11 months to go to school. I was studying physics. [21:32] I always wanted to be a physicist or mathematician, but physics was more, I mean, I say physics today, and I feel alive, just saying the word.
So I started to study physics in the cheapest school I can find, it’s called Wayne County Community College.
It was $20 a credit.
And my brother was going to pre-med, and we had enough money to do a semester each for 12 credits.
So basically, I’m excited and happy because I’m doing what I’m doing, And he was excited and happy doing what he’s doing. [22:05] Yeah. So that gets us to this point and this branch point. So what I’d like to do now is play a segment from the previous podcast so that we can hear what kind of happened next.
So a few weeks after that moment, you get a call from your parents.
I got that famous call from my father, which was really heart-wrenching, because my entire life is gone now.
I can’t be what I want, and then he confirmed it more. So in our culture, my father called with my mother, and they asked me to fulfill my brother’s dream, and that is to become a doctor.
He was gonna be a doctor.
I wanted to be a physicist. That was my dream, is to become a nuclear physicist, or mathematician, one of the two. So that was my passion.
That was really sad phone call for me because I did not like the subjects and being a doctor.
Maybe because of what I saw back home, really.
I was more, I kind of want to take a different direction in life.
Then I changed careers. [23:18] Just curious as you reflect back on that time, you said in this podcast, so I changed careers.
Was it all in that moment what happened? Take us through what happens after that phone call.
It’s still heartbreaking right now, actually. I hardly get sad or down, but I’m now sad and down. This is weird, actually, because I always make fun of people that get emotional about things. I’m not emotional because I’m crying, but I’m emotional like feeling the the way I’m feeling, I don’t know why, you know.
Just kind of, you lose your brother and you try and deal with that as tough, you know.
Your parents say we want you to do something for him and fulfill his dream. No one ever thought about, you know, what I would be going through. And to be honest, I feel like somebody just snapped the life out of me and said, you need to go walk through this field of, I don’t know what to call like poke your fingers and make sure you don’t poke your feet, you know?
I hated every subject that I had to do. [24:30] And it’s a landmine that I had to navigate to get through. And I think the reason I was doing well from a young age, very young age in physics and math, maybe because I was dyslexic and I never knew that.
We don’t know that in our culture. We don’t study these things.
I was really good at doing everything in my head in terms of numbers.
And I have to freaking memorize and read, and so I started to struggle.
And changing career is a simple word to say.
I changed my entire life. I mean, my whole life was turned upside down.
I was facing happiness every day.
I mean, I was listening to a lecture in physics, and every word I said, like numbers, formula, et cetera, like quickly I pick it up, man.
And then suddenly, like, my father hang up the phone and I said, yes, I really couldn’t finish the semester anymore, because it’s just really getting too much.
And I figured I’ll go take some classes in English to learn more English, because now I have to take different things. And I was trying to save some money, because I’m broke now, I don’t have any money, and start to live in a park. [25:44] There’s a park where there’s a pool. So I went back to working at Big Boy.
And it’s not like I didn’t consider myself homeless, to be honest with you.
I just figured this, like this, it is what it is.
Gotta do what I gotta do.
So I asked the manager to give me a promotion or like give me something extra, so I put more shifts. [26:05] And you know when you’re down, everybody wants to kick you. And in my mind, like nothing’s gonna make me down or bring me down, I just gotta do it.
So anyway, got to the point where I became a dishwasher and before Navi became Busboy. [26:22] And start to take the class. So move you to the next semester, which hell, I call it the hell semester.
That’s the one where I freaking took biology 101, English 1.
Stuff in the hell probably for you means nothing. It’s probably like, it’s so stupid to say it now, but the reality is the reality, okay?
The first time in my life I sat in a classroom not knowing what the hell was going on.
Didn’t understand a thing they were saying. [26:51] I’m like, how in the hell am I gonna be a doctor? I have no idea.
I don’t know what they’re talking about. I got a D in English.
I escaped with a B in biology. I don’t know how.
You know, calculus went on too. Luckily for me, they were required, and physics went on too, so I focused on those.
And then anything that had to do with biology, I’d struggle with.
So I made it through, but I gotta tell you, I was bitter.
You know, I wasn’t happy about what my parents chose for me.
But I never told them that. And I did it, between working whatever job I can until I started tutoring physics, at Wayne State University, and started to make good money, like $7 an hour, which is better than 3.25 or 3.35.
And every time I go to tutor physics, it just, you feel like something’s being robbed from you.
Mm-hmm and my no matter which class I’m going to I was walked by the The physics labs because it was passion for me. It was not just it was just passion love I mean still talk about it today. Like I asked the guy if I didn’t have responsibilities. I’ll go back to school today I’m gonna do it. Bye. [28:08] Anyway, I just want to acknowledge, I really hear the emotion that’s coming up for you, and the bitterness and the challenge. And I know there’s a cultural piece here, right? [28:28] I’m guessing from the Lebanese culture, this is you do what your parents say that you’re going to to do. Yeah, I mean, if you’re a man of your word, if you don’t deliver on your word, you’re not a man. Yeah. And they put me through that at the age of 16, and I, live with that every day. Every day I walk to work, and I walk back in the morning, I’m walking with shame. I’m ashamed. I’m afraid I’m gonna fail. You Don’t be a man if you can’t deliver any word. [29:04] I didn’t know I had dyslexia. I didn’t know why I can’t understand what’s going on.
And all I knew is I had to deliver to be a doctor. That’s all I knew. Yeah.
And yeah, I did it. I finished, became a doctor, and went to them and told them here’s a certificate. [29:24] And it was hell, that’s all I can tell you. Yeah, I’m curious what helped you through that besides your determination to honor what you said that you would do. What helped?
What were some of the things that helped you get through it?
You know, I honestly don’t want anyone to feel bad for me. I just want people to see what I’m gonna say as like fuel for life, basically.
You know, if you think about working at Big Boy and clean fricking toilets. [29:56] That was in the back of my mind. That I want to do this for the rest of my life.
When Abiy Yusuf helped us back in Lebanon, I mean, basically, I didn’t know which day I’m gonna die.
Is it today? Is it tomorrow?
So that was in the back of my mind. What am I gonna go if I don’t succeed here? I don’t have a home.
I can’t go back to my country.
So if I actually keep going, telling you about all the things I can’t rely on, I have no one to depend on, And I think everything fell down to the point that it’s me, I gotta do it.
There’s no one else to lean on or depend on.
And everything else, all my other options are negative, including death.
I mean, so what kept me going is basically the fact that there is no other options.
My only alternative is success here. Failure is not an option for me.
And if I fail, not only do I lose the respect of my parents, which really would kill me, but what else would I go?
I don’t have no other place to go. So I worked, I mean, people would work eight hours a day in their classes, I would have to work 12 hours a day in my classes. [31:07] And what kept pushing me through is the fact, you know, it’s for my brother.
I mean, it is definitely an honor to do this for him. And you know, at first I love my brother, and you can’t forget losing your best friend brother, it’s hard. Even today, when you talk about it, it’s hard. So my love for him and my. [31:30] Determination to deliver what he was going to do, because he was really, really happy about it, that was a big drive. My father was a huge drive and my mother. And I refused to fail. I mean, That’s my nature. That’s my personality.
I won’t fail. Don’t wanna fail.
And I told you the rest of it is if I did fail, really don’t have any good thing, any good outcome that can come out of it.
So perseverance was the only option. I persevered through every obstacle.
I mean, it’s unimaginable to be honest with you.
Because when I got my greeting card and I learned about financial aid and fill up an application for financial aid, didn’t even know how to fill the damn thing.
And you go to people to help you with it, and the questions they ask, et cetera, I mean, imagine the simple thing, financial aid application.
You look at kids who are born and raised here, whether they’re Lebanese or not Lebanese, et cetera, they take this for granted, and they have this freaking opportunity of having financial aid.
They have a home, their parents have everything else, and they’re just like taking it all for granted, not paying attention to this golden opportunity they have.
And here I am looking at that golden opportunity, I don’t have anything they have, including the ability to fill an application, and yet I want it so bad. [32:59] I did it. You know, the want it so bad, the perseverance, and looking at those sort of kids that took it for granted, I’m like, let them take it for granted, I’ll take it.
I want it.
So I would go ask for help from everyone that would talk to me, from any person that would help me, because again, I wanted to deliver what I promised.
So I think I know the answer to this. So during that time, your parents, I’m guessing that you didn’t let them know that this was not so easy for you. [33:36] Are you kidding me? You can’t. Yeah. You can’t show weakness.
That would be viewed as weakness, not struggle, right? I was struggling, really, and that’s what my name means.
Jihad means struggling, struggling for the better, sacrificing for others.
I mean, really, I was living up my name, living up to my name.
I mean, everybody looks at it as being holy war. It doesn’t freaking mean holy war.
I mean, it’s just like really struggling and trying to survive, sacrificing for others.
I mean, I was living up to my name, And if I tell my parents I’m struggling and I’m having difficulties, et cetera, I’ll probably be get, what’s the word?
I mean, I’ll get bitched out, really. Yeah. I’ll be told like, what’s wrong with you?
You’re weak and you’re not a man.
There’s no such thing as like.
Compassion in our culture. Okay, so it doesn’t mean my parents are bad They’re the best parents ever and I love my parents to death. [34:35] And my father is probably the best man in the world in my opinion, but still though I mean could have been a little bit different, you know Yeah, I I realize I’m coming from the lenses of an American, right?
So, you know, I want to move us a little forward here because because there are people who are going to be listening to this that have had not quite as stringent a command from the parents that this is what you will do and didn’t have the cultural sort of piece that says, this is what you do.
You honor your parents in that way. American culture, there’s obviously a lot more choice as you’ve already indicated.
And people, even if their parents push them in one direction, they may do that, but they may also do it with a lot of complaining or they may say, I’m just going to go in my own direction, anyway. But I think people will be able to relate to you, myself included, who was also pushed, not again, but not with as much stringent, stringence as you had, that we still find our way. And you have that, you have a, you also say that within medicine, you found your way, to create something that fit for you. Just say a little bit more about that.
Yeah, as the bitterness continued to grow, I took physiology and I was following basically the curriculum, right, for pre-med, et cetera.
And I took the class physiology. [36:03] And I think the light bulb went on then. You know, God, I can really apply physics and math, to medicine based on what I learned in physiology. [36:16] And biochemistry, and so things started to click in more.
And when I saw that, I started to focus more on the things that could be positive.
What can I use here to make this awful decisions that my parents made for me a great outcome or great option or opportunity for the future?
Literally, my life changed completely when I changed my attitude.
So I was struggling initially because I didn’t understand and comprehend what I’m dealing with because the classes were hard for me.
Also my attitude was negative and I couldn’t share that with my parents.
When they asked me how are things going and we’re hoping that you’re doing a good job for your brother, I would say it’s going great.
I’m doing great. Of course, yeah. Good job for my brother.
But I was really a good, convincing liar to them that I’m doing great because I have to always say that.
If I don’t say that, then I create chaos back home. [37:15] And then when I took physiology and realized, how much potential there is for me in this. If I do things right, actually I might be successful.
And I did. Actually I started working in a chemistry lab, making money that way, and started to see the value in physics and math and medicine, et cetera.
So I started to become much, much more excited now and applying what I know between physics, math, and classes, taking the MCAT, going to med school.
Even in med school, I actually excelled in med school in certain subjects that are difficult for everyone else, but they were so easy for me, because really I learned how to apply what I know in a way.
Like if your brain is built to be a mathematician brain or a physics brain, it’s an analog.
Everything is an analog or algorithm.
That’s how it is, right? And you know, darn it, man, it’s finally, I just, from that day of taking a physiology class, I decided I can conquer the world now. I can do so much. [38:33] And never stopped. I feel like a whole explosion of ideas came on and I wanted to achieve all of them, including inventions.
And every time I heard of a disease or something in med school and then in residency and in fellowship.
Everywhere, every step I made further, I realized how much more I can do.
And this is where the innovations came along. So once my attitude changed, when I was taking physiology, and became very positive, because negative attitude, you can get through it, you can go through something, but actually it’s a lot easier to get through things the positive attitude.
So. We’ll see you next time.
And that’s really where I combined my brother’s dream, my father’s demand, and my passion all together to create the new me who I am today.
It’s a beautiful way to kind of pull all of that together, you know, going from. [39:37] Really pain, really a painful and deep, deep pain, the loss and then sort of now I have to to go on this other trajectory. And then, this concept of changing your attitude, as I was listening to that, there was a change in attitude, but it was spurred on by this opening when you’re studying this going, Hey, this is actually, this sort of fits the way that I think.
So it’s not like all the other classes. So maybe there is something here for me as well.
And that enabled you to sort of open yourself up to maybe there’s some other things in here as well, that are going to be more the way that my brain is designed as well.
Absolutely it did. And as it did, I was very quick to learn what are the subject or the, topics or specialties that actually fits my brain. At this point, I still didn’t know I had dyslexia, by the way.
Wow. Yes, I knew I was struggling to pass the English proficiency exam.
I couldn’t pass it for the life of me.
I kept failing the damn thing and not knowing why.
So I would do well in number subjects and I’d do well in English subjects or worded subjects.
It took a while but I ended up having to even go to a foreign med school because I couldn’t pass the English proficiency exam.
I mean it could be. [41:05] Five tries. And I’m not ashamed to say that, you know? I’m actually proud of myself because I’ve decided to memorize the damn thing.
And I did. I memorized it. And it’s not cheating.
It’s like really, I decided that I can’t read fast enough and write fast enough.
So I memorized.
Wow. Like different topics. So whatever question I had, I had it memorized and I wrote it down.
And I passed. It’s so good. I got good grades on it too.
So I learned to do these things. So I learned to memorize things that I cannot comprehend if I read.
Everything else was easy because analog, you know? Just analog.
And once I passed it, came back to the US, started living in the United States, different hospitals, different places, man, really I started to see the bright light. [42:01] At the end of the tunnel. Not just the light, the bright light.
And I couldn’t wait to get there. It’s almost like you finish your med school and then you do your residency.
And in residency, you have to work hard to get into a fellowship.
And I knew what I needed to do, right?
So I chose a research that has a lot of numbers in it.
So statistics and et cetera. And then that helped me get into a fellowship my second year in my residency, which is really hard back then.
For a guy like me, who was a foreigner, foreign grad actually at this point, but still I got into a fellowship, which made life easier.
And I was moonlighting, by the way, because I started to support my parents then.
They needed money.
So I think I turned, I want to say 20, I think, at that age, probably 20 or so, when they asked me for money for the first time. [42:58] So I used to get student loans by then. Financial aid first, then student loans.
So I would send them money for my student loans.
And my way of life was very simple. I just had enough money to just survive, basically.
That’s the money I sent to them.
But then, you know, for some reason, keeping the positive aspect of what I have going was very critical for me.
It changed me completely.
I don’t wanna think about all the negative things that I have to deal with. [43:32] When am I gonna, okay, next month is money for my parents. How can I come up with that?
I learned how to do something called compromitalization. Now I say it now, but back then I didn’t know what it was.
So I started to do all these things and focus only on the positive aspects of my life so I can keep moving forward.
And that really is an advice I would like to give to everybody that’s struggling with anything.
Just put the negative things to the side and deal with what is at hand, the task at hand, the positive aspect of your life that is going to move you forward or propel you forward.
And if you focus on it, I guarantee you, you’ll get there.
So the people that are listening to this podcast may not know that you are now, you know, that bright light at the end of the tunnel was interventional cardiology is where you are right now, right? Yeah.
Yes. And you know, that day when I went to interview and didn’t have a lot of money, you know, back then where you have to fly everywhere and you have to fill out the application by hand. The gentleman that I interviewed with asked me some questions about the research I published. Of course, I’ve read everything about him. And he asked me if I want the fellowship.
I said, yes. I said, would you sign today? I said, I’ll sign right now. I signed right there there and then, because you know what I’m thinking about, right?
I don’t have to pay all the other money that so interview other places. [44:56] And so I signed and went back to work moonlighting, saving money knowing that I’m going to do my fellowship. So, um, yeah, that was a bright light and that was the best decision I ever made.
Yeah, that’s great. Well, I just have one more question and in the question that you’ve enlightened me and, And me and the people who are listening to this about how you met pretty significant adversity and struggled with internally how to move yourself into accepting this new path that your parents had set for you and then finding a way to really enjoy that and find a bright light within that.
I just wonder in addition to the advice you’ve given so far, is there anything that you would like to impart to our listeners that you haven’t mentioned yet about how to move through these various challenges in life?
You know, I don’t know if anybody have a life that is a straight path, free of obstacles, Or just you can go from A to B without any, some sort of obstacle, adversity.
It comes at different levels, right? For someone like me who comes with nothing from nowhere. [46:20] You expect to have this big obstacles because you don’t know first of all even if it’s a small obstacles you don’t know how to get around it it becomes huge obstacles.
My advice for those that are fortunate more than you and I and they live in a country like this like our beautiful country here whenever you have an obstacle in your way you know just stop look at it from different directions and you’re gonna realize like it’s not really as big of a deal as as you think. [46:51] We sometimes get intimidated and scared of the simplest things, right?
Because we are doctors, right? And doctors don’t know much about life.
You get a letter from some committee saying that you used the wrong catheter in a patient and our heart stops, right?
Well, my heart doesn’t stop. When I get the letter, I’m ready to fight.
And it’s like almost become, The mentality is like the obstacle that you’re facing, don’t let it consume you before you understand it.
And then when you understand it, you realize like it’s really a joke. Great sound advice.
And Dr. Jihad Mustafa, thank you so much for coming back to this, to our family of podcasts at MD Coaches and joining me here today on Life-Changing Moments.
It’s been very inspirational to hear your story once again for me, but also to kind of go a little bit deeper about these really significant moments in your life.
So thank you again for being with us.
Thank you for the opportunity. I really appreciate it.
Please keep talking to doctors all around the country because our life is not that simple and all of us have a lot of things that we face every day.
So I look forward to listening to other people as well. Here are my takeaways from this conversation. [48:13] When I reflect on this moving conversation with Dr. Mustafa, this adage comes to mind.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
While it grossly oversimplifies the obstacles he overcame, it is a useful phrase to remember as it encourages us to convert a negative circumstance into a positive one by adopting a positive mindset.
Through his transparency and vulnerability in telling his story, he teaches us how to live this way rather than to just think about it.
It’s hard for me to encapsulate all of the lessons in this inspiring story, and so rather than try to summarize, I’ll just say that I’m very grateful to have been able to share. [48:55] This week I’m going to reprise some statements and words of advice from him that I think stand to be repeated. So here goes. [49:03] 1. When you need something and you want it badly, you have no idea how hard you’ll work.
2. What kept me going is when I realized there was no other option.
Failure as I defined it was not an option.
3. Be sure to notice the opportunities we have in life and don’t take them for granted.
4. When a decision has been made for you, find your way in spite of it. How can you turn this into a great opportunity for your future?
5. My life changed completely when I changed my attitude. And a corollary to that one, 6. It’s a lot easier to get through things with a positive attitude. [49:46] 7. At times it may be useful to compartmentalize. Put negative things aside and focus on the positive aspects of life that will move you forward.
And finally, number eight, when you encounter an obstacle, pause and look at it from a different direction and you’ll likely realize that it is not as big a deal as you think.
To this last point, examining the obstacles in your life, coaching is an effective way to do just that.
When you engage with a coach, the conversation turns to not only identifying roadblocks, reframing them like Dr. Mustafa does and then identifying ways to overcome them.
A coach is your thought partner in accelerating you forward.
To explore coaching for you, please visit us at MyMDCoaches.com. [50:34] Thank you for listening and be well. [50:40] Thank you for tuning in to Life Changing Moments. If you enjoyed this episode, please be sure to rate us 5 stars and leave a review.
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