Published January 15, 2013
Volume 21, Number 1

Bay Area Psychiatric’s Mohsin Khalique, M.D., in Practice to Serve Mankind 

By Nicole Zaro Stahl

Mohsin Khalique. M.D., wanted to be a doctor ever since he can remember. As a young boy in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, he was strongly influenced by the example of his mother, an OB/GYN. Her frequent comings and goings to tend to patients left a strong imprint.

“I grew up watching my mother take care of families,” recalls Khalique, who after several years in a group practice established Bay Area Psychiatric Center at 5674 Stoneridge Drive this past September. “As an obstetrician, she was on call 24/7, and my sisters and I would see her going off to her hospital at all hours of the day and night. Her dedication was inspirational, and in large part triggered my own desire to go into medicine.”

Khalique followed the conventional path toward earning a medical degree in his home city: a year of kindergarten, 10 years of elementary and secondary school, two years of pre-med studies. He spent the ensuing five years in medical school at the prestigious Aga Khan University Medical College.

What was not conventional about Khalique’s education was his performance. As was normal in his culture, he lived at home throughout his schooling. While Karachi was “huge and cosmopolitan,” it was also very easy to drive around in, so he lost little time to commuting or other distractions. These were important considerations for the diligent student who devoted 16 hours a day to his studies. When he finished the pre-med program, he ranked in the top 10 among the graduating male pre-med students city-wide--all 16,000 of them. The 14,000 female graduates were ranked separately, he explains.

Khalique attributes his academic success not just to his own endurance studying but also to extraordinarily helpful teachers. “I can’t emphasize enough how important they were. They took a special interest in me, and I am very lucky they had such dedication.”

That extra attention was warranted at least in part by a profound change in family circumstances. When he was just 11, his father died, and the adolescent suddenly lost the other main formative figure in his life. A retired journalist who still wrote at home, his father had been a mainstay in the daily care of Khalique and his three older sisters, aged 14, 15, and 19. “My dad was a kind of stay-at-home person. Because my mother was working full time, he took us to school and picked us up. I remember him vividly reading, writing, and playing with us.”

Khalique’s mother “very bravely” accepted the twin challenges of becoming the sole breadwinner for the family and taking charge of their upbringing. Thinking back to his superlative pre-med performance, Khalique reflects that his personal situation made it “much more remarkable. I had beaten a lot of odds.”

During medical school, a few introductory courses in psychiatry sparked Khalique’s interest and he developed a passion for the specialty as his own way of caring for children and families. Post-graduate training in psychiatry in Karachi in the early 1990s was still in its early stages, so he arranged to do his residency at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia.

It was to be his first job, but not his first time in the U.S. He was already a veteran traveler. When he was 14, he spent a long summer break with family on both sides of the country, in Queens, New York, and Los Angeles. He fell in love with the energy and charisma of New York City and had fun visiting southern California’s theme parks. The memory of a quick road trip up to San Francisco still makes him chuckle over the way he kept his cousin, the only legal driver, awake at the wheel.

Khalique’s  second trip was part of a “grand tour”-like gift from his mother after pre-med graduation, when he was 19. He first went to London, staying with a family friend for a few weeks, then criss-crossed the U.S. for two months, thanks to a special low-cost Amtrak pass. The late August train ride to New York via New England left him captivated by the spectacle of changing autumn leaves. “It was the first time in my life I saw fall, and it was just beautiful.” He wound up the tour visiting cousins in Paris and then flew home.

After graduating from medical school, Khalique returned to the U.S. to continue his education,  spending a few months with a friend in West Virginia before heading to Philadelphia. During his residency, he went home to Karachi to marry a fellow medical student. The couple came back to the U.S. and eventually moved to upstate New York for further training. By the time Khalique finished his fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry, they had a six-month-old daughter. “Burned out” by the many years of studying, he decided to take time off and become a stay-at-home dad.

When it came time to deal with visa issues, Khalique found he had two alternatives: either go back to Pakistan for at least two years, or stay and practice medicine in a federally designated underserved area. He opted for the latter and ended up going back to West Virginia, taking their daughter with him while his wife stayed in the pediatric emergency program in Buffalo. It was the sensible choice, given that her schedule was completely unpredictable and his was much more routine. He was comfortable in the role because of his experience with his own father. “I didn’t have the same kind of help in the house that he did,” Khalique relates. “In addition to caring for our daughter, I had to do the cooking, cleaning, and shopping, but those years we spent together were a lot of fun, a very memorable time.”

While meeting visa requirements in West Virginia and neighboring Ohio, Khalique provided care in a variety of settings--as a consulting psychiatrist for a youth shelter, an assistant medical director and psychiatrist for a hospital, and as medical director of a behavioral health system.

In 2008 he had the opportunity to join a large psychiatry group in Dublin, so the family moved to California. There he honed his interest in adult and child ADHD, mood and anxiety disorders, post traumatic stress, and teenagers with drug and alcohol problems. He also sharpened his focus on neuropsychopharmacology and developed an eclectic approach incorporating important principles of cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and mindfulness.

While he drew deep satisfaction from his work–“it’s very rewarding to make healthful interventions and see how the lives of children and their families change in front of you”—the challenges of dealing with the health insurance system spurred him to open his own practice to offer patients greater flexibility.

Describing himself as “still a newbie” learning about the various business aspects, he evokes his initial motivation to enter medicine. “We in this industry should never lose sight of the reason we went into this field, to serve mankind. We are not here to make money or sell a product. We are here to help the unfortunate, and being independent allows me to keep doing that.”
He also acknowledges the strong role his family has played in his success, especially in the launch of his practice. “The hours and hours my wife had to spend to hold the fort--I don’t think I could have managed to start anything without her belief, support, and love.”

Also in this issue ...