Life Changing Moments: Shifting Mindsets with Dr. Mohamed Khalif

When the proverbial house you are building doesn’t take shape, it might be time to build a new house.  That’s what Dr. Mohamed Khalif did, and has found success in ways he never imagined.

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Mohamed Khalif is the President of the American Society of Physicians and Chief Executive Officer of Bridging Care. in 2019; Governor Jay Inslee appointed him to serve on the State Medical Graduate Workgroup. His organization successfully advocated for licensing reform every year since 2019 and helped pass three legislations during those times. The most recent legislation, HB1129, established a license for Unmatched doctors in Washington State. It was featured in several articles, including Federal Trade Commission Watch, Long Reads and Times Magazine. Dr. Khalif also speaks at educational seminars and webinars related to Brain Waste and workforce integration. His most recent presentations were at the World Education Services, and the Health Care Leadership Table. On his free time Mohamed loves playing basketball, and is diehard fan of the Phoenix Suns. 

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[0:00] It was very difficult, Dale. I remember one time I was at a coffee shop just by myself, and I was there for, I think, so for six hours, like just the whole day, just drinking coffee, staring at my laptop, looking at that you did not match screen.
And I was like, hey, what am I going to do the next year? There are times in our lives that change the way we see the world.

[0:25] Navigating these challenges can take insight, trusted confidence, or even a coach. Let’s explore those moments. In this companion podcast to Rx4Success, 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.
Today we’re talking with Dr. Mohamed Khalif. Dr. Khalif was featured on RX for Success episode number 118. In that conversation with Dr. Cook, he shared that after several frustrating attempts at securing a postgraduate training position, about how he made a shift in how he defined success. So before we get into that conversation, just a bit about Dr. Khalif. He is president of the American Society of Physicians and chief executive officer of Bridging Care.
He graduated from Jilin Medical University in China and as indicated, since that time has been hard at work advocating for licensing reform and speaking on brain waste and workforce integration.

[1:42] Mohamed, welcome back to the MD Coaches Family Programs and to life changing moments.
Thank you for having me, Dale. Appreciate it.
Great. Yeah, good to have you. So we were talking before we got on, you’re in Seattle?
Yes, Seattle, Washington. Yeah. And how are things going there right now?
It’s good. I mean, we had some fires and, you know, some bad air quality these days, but other than that, it’s been really good.

[2:09] Good. That’s great. So I’m glad to hear that some of the fires are over. Yeah. Good.
Well, so as I mentioned a moment ago, you had gone through the rigors of applying to postgraduate medical education and attempting to secure that training.
You made a significant shift in your thinking.
But I just was curious if you could just sort of summarize what that was leading up to that shift in your thinking.
Yeah, so, you know, I got to a point in life where I wanted to, in my mind, get to the finish line.
But you know, I always couldn’t…
Know what that was for me, like ever since going to university and graduating from medical school, and doing the boards, it was about, you know, getting into residency training, becoming a board certified physician. So that was the finish line for me in my head. But then, you know, as I got into this world when as I got into, you know, other passions in life, so I found a passion in helping people and I always had a passion in helping people, but, I thought the only way to help people was through becoming a doctor.
And that’s a great way of helping people. But you know, when I got into advocacy, and I got into business, and especially in healthcare business, I was like, you know.

[3:30] Maybe there’s a different finish line for me specifically. And I’m a huge believer of faith in God. So, and this was like, in my mind, it was maybe this is God’s way of showing me that I have of another purpose in life.
So that’s why I was like, I want to do something else with my life.
And I found nonprofit in advocacy in bridging care, which is a huge success in my life as well.
Yeah, nice. So I wonder, it sounds like there was quite a bit of effort on your part to secure that postgraduate training.
And then there’s instead of, it’s a little bit of the, making lemonade out of lemons kind of story, But even beyond that, you’ve really sort of taken what the ultimate goal of can I impact change in health?
And really taking that in a little bit bigger of a way.

[4:25] Yes, exactly. So yeah, I mean, when I think about can I impact health, right now these days, as you may know, healthcare is changing not only the doctor-physician relationship.
But all around us, right, we have problems with insurance, problems with, you know, government and misguided policies, problems all where so and I never for me, I never saw those problems before for me was like, how can I get in the room with the patient, listen to their concerns, treat them take care of their families.
But you know, that was a great, that’s a great success.
And that’s like, was really good to achieve. But then I saw like all these other problems around those.

[5:12] Like I need to maybe focus, you know, if maybe if this didn’t, it was a hard decision.
Maybe if this didn’t work out, I need to focus on other stuff to ensure that I can impact health.
I’d like to kind of play back that little piece from our expert success and then and then have a conversation about that. because what you’re talking about is a mindset shift.
And I want to have a little conversation with you about what created that mindset shift for you.
So let’s play this little clip where you talk about that.
And then we’ll just about a minute here.

[5:49] Because success for me was always about becoming a licensed physician and getting into that room with the patients that you want to serve and changing people’s lives, sitting down with family, and helping people become more healthy, being a community leader.
And the only way I saw that to get to that point was this residency system and the problems that I went through.
And I struggled with this word for a long time, success, is it that?
And once I took a different route and said like, hey, I want to take a different route other than the match and now I want to become a nonprofit leader and I want to become an advocate for this.
I realized in that moment that I defined my own success.

[6:47] So just in listening to that, does that kind of bring anything back for you?
Yeah, I mean, that kind of that small clip brings up all the struggles I went to in, you know, kind of like a box. Like, I don’t know how to describe it. But you know, it was really difficult times because, you know, you have parents who put a lot of, you know, stock capital in you, you have family, you know, you have financial problems.
And, you know, to to really change that mindset, it was really difficult.
I’ve never done I don’t think I’ve ever done anything more difficult to than to shift that mindset.
You know, right now, you know, I tell people I shifted my mindset, but I can imagine somebody going through this, how hard it would be for them.
But, you know, I think it just takes just looking outside, like, you know, outside of yourself, you know, just inside out, You know, just like looking outside and being more attentive on, you know, what’s going on around you and making that shift in mindset.
But it was very difficult, Dale. I remember one time I was at a coffee shop just by myself, and I was there for I think so for six hours, like just the whole day.
Just, you know, just drinking coffee, staring at my laptop, looking at that you did not match screen. Right.
And I was like, hey, like, what am I going to do the next year?
I’m turning 30 next year. I was 29 then. So I was like, what am I going to do next year? Like, what, how’s my life going to turn out? You know, how’s things going to look for my family?

[8:17] It was a serious shift, but I’m happy I took it because, you know, I feel happy, right? And.

[8:23] I did not feel happy for a long time. I just felt that I was stuck. But in a way, this kind of freed.

[8:32] Yeah, so I wonder if we can kind of deconstruct that just a bit, Muhammad.
So you’re sitting in front of a screen for six hours looking at the no match.
And earlier you said something about look outside yourself. Can you sort of share with us what steps, and maybe they were intentional, maybe they weren’t intentional, what steps did you take to shift that mindset for yourself?
Yeah, I mean, it’s really hard to pinpoint, right? I think it was more of a gradual, I think so progression.
First of all, it was just, you know, looking at the past and thinking of the future.
So first it started by looking at the past.

[9:12] Like, cause right now, for example, for me, I would compare it to, let’s say you have, you built a house from the ground up and all you need is to finish the roof, right?
And then you can live in that house. And let’s say you, you prosper, you know, you develop some kind of wealth, you know, or for you and your family, whatever it is. But like, for me was like, building that roof, it was like, hey, I’m just so close. I can almost I’m about to touch it. I can almost get into residency training. I can become a doctor, I can wear that white coat again, I can, you know, call my call myself a physician again. And it was, it was just building that roof in for me was looking at the past and saying that what is going on?
Can I let go of the house and like let it fall down?
And can I start a new house? Can I start building from the bottom again? Right.
That was so difficult because you put all your hard work in it.
You put all your money into it. You put all your sweat and grit into it.
And all you got to do is you just got that roof. You know, you got to build that roof.
Quitting like I’m a competitive guy. You know, I played, you know, competitive basketball and like that competitive, you know spirit in me was like you can’t quit right now You know, you can’t lose.
But then I started like after looking the past.

[10:35] And struggling with the middle, which is quitting. The second part was like, if I leave this, is it quitting?
And then the last portion was, I realized, I defined what was quitting.
I defined what was moving on. I would define as what is success.
And I realized like quitting, maybe for everybody else, quitting is different than what it means for me.
Maybe for everybody else, success is different for what it means for me.
And the third step was really defining those key elements that then pull me back from taking a different route.
And I was like, if I leave this, and if I start something new in my life, it’s not quitting.
I am doing something else that I feel happy of. I am helping people. I am doing all that.
All that, I am, you know, making my family proud, you know, like, the other thing was like, well.

[11:37] Everybody in my family hate me because I did not succeed. Right. And that was not true. Like my family always cared about me. They love me. It was just me thinking that they would hate me because I failed. And I just, I just thought about all this. And then I was like, you got to take that second step forward in life and do something else.
But yeah, that’s the kind of process I went through.
Hi, I’m Rhonda Crowe, founder and CEO for MD Coaches. 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.
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[14:08] And now let’s get back to today’s interview. So, did you have a different language for this?
Because you said some people define this, you know, quitting in a different way.
What word or phrase did you come up for yourself about your forward movement?
I defined it as finding myself again, right?
And doing something that I’m happy and that will be great for my own mental health.
So I thought about, I started to become more, I don’t know if selfish is the right word, but I thought about myself more, right?
I was like, you know, if I’m healthy, if my mental health is good, if I’m doing something I love, that will manifest to everybody around me, because I’m a person who cares about the people around me, my friends, my coworkers, my family.
And I was like, if I think about myself, then that will manifest around and everything will be great at the end of the day. So that’s how I defined it basically.
That’s awesome. So there’s that concept of as I care for myself, I care for others.

[15:17] It’s all going to be good. I’m struck with this image that you painted of the roof is almost on the house. Yeah. And is it okay for me to let that house go and start anew? Yep. That was everything I was thinking about, right? And it was really hard. Like for me, it was like, like you build this house to the top and just by taking that decision, everything falls down and you still, you gotta start building from the bottom again.
And that’s why I really sympathize with people who go through these transitions, because I’ve been there, it’s tough to start again.
If you had to kind of talk about the time that it took for you to kind of go from this really, I’m gonna say disappointment, and that may not even be the right word, of that last time I’m staring at the screen and no match, match to the moments when you are re-emerging as yourself.

[16:18] What kind of time course are we talking about? Who? I mean, it was, the screen was just one day that I didn’t even have no answers. Like everything I’m telling you right now, you know, came after that.
Like the scheme was like, it was just a moment of shock and not knowing what to do, but it was a while.
I mean, I would say a couple of months, maybe six months or so of rethinking.
Cause you know, the way the match system works and the residency is like, when you don’t match in March, you gotta get ready for the next match in September again. So you only have six months.

[16:56] So like, and I was thinking, hey, should I be applying again?
So that six months I really took to really think about life in general.
And this is when everything came to me. So then I decided to not apply for the match again, and do something else.
And that helped me because I really had a short time to make that decision, that six month period. But it was hard.
It was like, it was on and off. It was like me this week saying, I’m gonna do it next week saying, I’m not gonna do it. So, and then it was tough.
Yeah, I’m curious during that time during those months, was there anybody that was helpful to you?

[17:39] You know, I think family was really helpful. You know, family always encouraged me to do what I love.
And, you know, friends, you know, were really helpful.
I mean, we got together with, you know, a lot of people who are going through the same situation.
So that was helpful as well.
Well, we had this kind of like Zoom sessions, group sessions, kind of like talking about these things, like fellow people who were going through the situation.
So yeah, I mean, that was almost helpful. But I felt in a way that, how can I say this?

[18:12] I had to find my own guidance. That’s why I think back then I would definitely do coaching, because I think I would solve these things much sooner.
But I had to be kind of my own guide in a way.
Yeah. So I asked a question about people, but what else was helpful to you during that time?
I think, you know, just books. You know, I read this book called Mindset. I forgot the author, Carol, something. That was good. I read a lot of, you know, business books because, you know, I wanted to get in business, you know, Seven Habits of Successful People, Think Grow Rich, you know, all these kind of like different books. Billy helped me to prepare for the next steps in in my life, because I really wanted to do something else going forward.
So that really helped me as well.
So it sounds like there’s time, but there’s also there’s some intention there on your part about what am I going to do to create my next step.

[19:10] Yep. Yeah, I always thought about that. and I always had this, you know, I didn’t kind of let it go.
In the way like I ultimately did. It was kind of like, I can’t let it go. So the roof was, the house was still built, but I had the roof kind of next to me, right? So and I was like, hey, can I build this? And at the same time, I was like, what am I going to do, like a plan B?
So I was looking for a plan. I had the plan A. My plan B at that time, which is what I’m doing right now wasn’t my plan A. It was still like getting into residency in the match.
I see. So it took a while to kind of make like really define my plan A again.
If you were to share what you’ve learned during that time with a general audience, people who might be going through something similar, what are some of the lessons that you want to impart to others?
One thing that really helped me is always surround yourself with people who care, people going through the same situation. I think that really helped me. I think, you know, there’s.

[20:19] Like a bond that you guys form and you guys talk about it. And, you know, another thing is just talking about this, you know, struggles that you’re going through. For me, it was very hard, because, you know, culturally, I was taught to never talk about your problems, right? You’re a a man, men don’t talk about their problems. You just deal with it. So it was tough for me. So but you’re just talking about the situation that you that you go in situations that you’re going through. And always just defining the terms in your life.
Like, if you hear quitting, what is quitting look like to you? If you hear success? What is success mean to you? Failure?
What does failure mean to you? And you’re just defining those, you know, key stuff that we all struggle with.
Those are great insights and some great things for people to contemplate. We all have…

[21:13] Transitions in our life, most are not quite as significant as what you went through there.
But I think those are all really good points for us all to take forward.

[21:24] I’d like for you to have an opportunity to just share a little bit of what you’re doing now for the people who weren’t able to listen to our Expert Success podcast.
But you’re defining success differently and you’re quite successful, so I wonder if you could share with our listeners something about what you’re about these days?
Yeah, these days, I mean, I’m in a couple of steps. So one, I work with the nonprofit, American Society of Physicians. We do a lot of advocacy work around the country and helping people like, you know, what I was going through into finding their next steps in their career and just advocating for people who want to, you know, do a residency by licensing reform.
We help pass a number of legislation in different states where an unmatched physician can work under the supervision of a board certified physician while they wait for residency so they don’t become a cab driver, you know, in between stuff.

[22:17] So that is, you know, we were really successful in that as well.
And that’s my advocacy part of the of my life.
And I’m also the chief executive officer of bridging care, which is, you know, a mental health, you know, startup, almost 40 employees right now.
We do mental health counseling, we do care coordination.
We work with physicians. We also get people in healthcare who couldn’t become a physician like myself into these roles of mental health counseling as well.
And they get the chance to work with different healthcare providers.
So that’s basically what I’m doing right now.

[22:58] That’s really awesome. And for those who have not been to the website about the American Society of Physicians, I invite people to go there.
I think the mission is really, I mean, it’s pretty all encompassing, but it’s really grounded in we want health to be better for Americans.
And it’s really, really very impressive. And I know that there’s a lot of people who are motivated in different ways to be members, but I love the mission there and I invite people to take a look there.

[23:30] So congratulations on those accomplishments, But also really congratulations on creating that mindset shift for yourself that’s allowed you to now be in a place where you are offering so much to so many people.
I’m really excited that I took that decision, even though it was hard.
But yeah, I think my ultimate goal was always to help people.
I think God led me to a path where right now I’m doing so.

[23:59] Yeah, awesome. Well, Dr. Muhammad Khalif, thank you so much for being a guest on Life Changing Moments. I really appreciate this and look forward to hearing how things unfold and are continuing to be successful for you.
I appreciate you having me and you know, hope we could do another interview sometime.
All right, great. Thank you. Here are my takeaways from my conversation with Dr. Khalif.
In this short podcast, Muhammad describes what’s involved in creating a mindset shift.
Though this is not always easy and as he experienced can be quite difficult.

[24:41] There are times when doing so transforms your life from being stuck to being fully engaged.
Well, here are some other pearls that I gleaned about the process of shifting your mindset.
Number one, ask yourself, can I let go of the house? Dr. Kaleef used the metaphor of building a house to describe his goal of becoming a residency trained physician.
When he confronted difficulty with the last step, putting the roof on, he reached a branch point.
Should I try again to build the roof or is it time to let go of this house?
Number two, if contemplating the shifting of directions evokes some self-judgment, specifically the concept of quitting, find yourself reframing this instead as moving on.
We may travel a long distance to reach a destination, but when we’re almost there, we can see it and then we find that we encounter several roadblocks that prevent us from reaching it.
We do ourselves and the world a favor by recognizing it and moving on.

[25:50] 3. Redefine success by connecting with your core values. Dr. Leaf re-illuminated his core value of wanting to make a difference in the health of people. Once he decided to move on from the inability to complete the one house, he chose to build a new house that enables him to do just that and he does it brilliantly. 4. Finally, I really like the philosophy that that Muhammad arrived at for himself.
Do something that will make you happy.
If your mental health is good, that will manifest in those around you.
What better way to make an impact in the health of others?
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