Change in any form is important. It requires reflection, education, effort, and commitment. Whether an internal, personal shift in opinion or a massive, collective change in perspective, change is a sign of growth. However, regardless of its form, change is a double-edged sword. Join us as we sit with that unpleasantness and come to understand the paradox of change. Change can have a dark side and here’s why.

The Paradox of Change

Change: verb; to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc. of something different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone.

The Good Side

This is the result side; the outcome. This is the light at the end of the tunnel that required commitment and effort. The good side of change is typically the side we all hear about. It’s in the news and written about because whatever the change was, it was important and society is better off because of it. 

Physician P.J. Parmar knows a lot about this side of the paradox of change. He and his practice, Ardas Family Medicine, have changed the way healthcare professionals look at the challenges of Medicaid patients.

Throughout the healthcare system, private doctors often see Medicaid patients as a problem. Why? “Because Medicaid pays less than private insurance, and because Medicaid patients are seen as more challenging,” explains Parmar. “Some show up late for appointments, some don’t speak English, and some have trouble following instructions.”

Rather than see Medicaid patients as a hindrance, Parmar saw them as a business opportunity. “If I could build a practice that caters to low-income folks, instead of avoiding them, then I would have guaranteed customers,” says Parmar. “I’d also have very little competition because not many others are doing this. Maybe serving the poor could be a business opportunity.”

His private practice has now served over 50,000 refugee medical visits and they are growing 25 percent per year. By focusing on walk-ins, home visits, and Medicaid patients, Ardas Family Medicine is a flourishing, solution-oriented practice. They are changing the healthcare game

Parmar’s clinic has been featured in news articles throughout the state because of their innovative work, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. Thus, this work represents the pinnacle of the good side of change. A shift in opinion, a change in the future course of healthcare that we hear about because of the difference it has made. 

The Dark Side

We tend to forget, or at least pay less attention to, this side of change. However, in some ways, it is the most important piece of the change equation. The dark side of change is the start, the place where change comes from. 

The dark side of change is the unpleasant report of thousands killed in a plane crash that eventually led to the grounding and reprogramming of malfunctioning airplanes. Or, the patients who didn’t receive the care they needed because they didn’t have the proper insurance that led Parmar to start his clinic. Or, the thousands who died from a disease that we ignored for too long, that is now leading to a massive shift in vaccine research.

Sarah Tuneberg has learned from this dark side of change. She dedicates her time to make sure we learn from our mistakes the first time around.

“The fact that anyone dies from a disaster in this country is a political problem,” says Tuneberg. “Because we know exactly how to stop the suffering.” Tuneberg is an expert in public health and emergency management. Her organization, Geospiza, uses data to predict the outcomes of natural disasters in specific areas and develops solutions before disaster strikes. Her life’s work is dedicated to learning from the mistakes we have made in the past, like ignoring the data that proved what would happen if a hurricane hit Houston long before Harvey made landfall. 

“But to call the death and displacement caused by these events natural makes the destruction seem inevitable and out of our control. But it’s not out of our control,” explains Tuneberg. 

Hurricanes and other natural disasters have hit in the past. The key is we need to learn from our collective mistakes. When we forget the dark side of change, the spark that led to a shift in policy or resource delegation, we become blind to the fact that the exact same outcome could happen again.

Tuneberg is speaking at TEDxMileHigh: Rise. Register for free here.

The Pinnacle of the Paradox of Change

This is the point. A massive shift in public opinion, personal beliefs, or policy decisions but at a steep, devastating cost. The dark side of change is just that, dark. But, it’s crucial to remember because it contains the lesson that sparked the change in the first place. The bright side is happier because we were able to learn and move on as a society. 

Change is important and necessary to rise as humans. But, we cannot forget where the spark for change came from, or we’ll be right back where we started.