PR News | David Rosen: white collar by day, blue collar by night

Bob Brody
Bob Brody

In 2011, David Rosen rode in the back of an ambulance heading for a hospital, the siren blaring. But rather than receiving medical care, he gave it. The former pharmaceutical industry executive had recently become an emergency medical technician (EMT).

My friend had long earned a six-figure salary as a communications specialist for PR agencies and pharmaceutical companies. Now, at 40, as a part-time paramedic, David was earning just $9.75 an hour with no benefits. People regularly move from one profession to another in mid-career. But it’s rare that someone chooses to move from a white-collar position to a blue-collar position.

So why?

He thrived for 17 years doing healthcare public relations for a living, starting right out of college, first on the agency side at GTFH and then at Burson-Marsteller. We met as colleagues at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, where we both had private offices in a high-rise in midtown Manhattan and helped manage million-dollar accounts.

During this process, David learned about medical conditions such as diabetes, depression and HIV, and how to educate consumers and physicians about the medications available to treat and manage these conditions. He spent his days brainstorming marketing strategies with colleagues in corporate boardrooms and delivering PowerPoint presentations featuring C-suite clients. He wore suits and traveled the world. He then landed a communications position at Dupont Pharmaceuticals, then at Bristol Myers Squibb.

David Rosen
David Rosen

Then in December 2008 he was fired, the job he loved was suddenly taken away from him, leaving him feeling shocked, lost and worthless. He could have turned his experience as a senior vice president into another role in the same field. But since he was a teenager he wanted to be a paramedic – odd, considering he couldn’t stand the sight of blood.

So, instead, he decided to take the opportunity, finally, to study in pursuit of the dream he had put aside. Soon he received state certification as a New Jersey EMT and joined the Berlin, New Jersey EMS squad and the Cherry Hill Fire Department.

And for the next six years, wearing a fire department badge, sturdy work boots and “tactical pants” with plenty of pockets containing trauma scissors, duct tape and gloves, he devoted most of his his waking hours answering 911 calls in suburban towns. of Cherry Hill and Berlin. As paramedics do, he assessed a patient’s condition, documented what happened, determined the necessary treatment. He provided first aid and life support as needed, then drove the person to the emergency department and gave staff a detailed report.

David worked 12-hour night shifts starting at 8 p.m. and sometimes lasting until 6 p.m. Then he repeated the cycle the following night before taking two nights off. Sleep loss emerged as an occupational hazard.

“One second you’re trying to take a little nap in a recliner, the next you’re running in your truck,” David told me recently. “Your heart rate suddenly skyrockets. It’s like going from zero to 100 miles an hour in no time. That’s life.”

In the front line, he sees suffering and death. The little boy who fell off the playground slide and broke his arm. The woman involved in a car accident who had to be carefully removed from the steering wheel to avoid aggravating her injured back. The man who walked his dog, only for his heart to suddenly stop and he needed to restart it. It’s still health care, what David does, still a life and death proposition, literally practical.

“The person we pick up in our ambulance is having the worst day of their life,” he said. “They need medical attention, often desperately. My job is to do an initial assessment, secure any additional resources needed, then treat and transport them to the hospital as quickly and safely as possible.

Eventually, personal financial pressures forced David to return to the office and take on a full-time job. The median salary for full-time EMTs and paramedics in 2021 was $36,930 per year, compared to $62,800 for public relations specialists. His wife, Deborah, had to support the family of four (they have two daughters, Allison and Jessica). Paying the mortgage on their house and maintaining a comfortable standard of living, even though he was working overtime, turned into a struggle. “If I could have supported my family because I just want to do EMS,” he says, “I would have.”

But even though David no longer needs income from a second job – he is now managing director of media at Argot Partners, a strategic communications company focused on life sciences. he never stopped serving as a paramedic. From Monday to Friday, he is there, at his desk, in front of a computer, managing clients, deadlines and deliverables. But Friday night, David Rosen leaves in the moonlight. He goes out at 8 p.m. to record a 12-hour shift, until 8 a.m. on Saturday. He does it month after month, year after year. He is always eager to get home, but also to make sure others get home too.


Bob Brody is a public relations consultant and veteran of Weber Shandwick, Ogilvy and Rubenstein. He is also the author of Playing Wrestling With Strangers: Family Member (Reluctantly) Comes of Age and a contributing essayist to the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post.

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