Features

Scott Rowekamp – Global Medical Response

Employment attorney makes DEI a personal passion

Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the shortage of paramedics and EMTs was setting off alarm bells in the industry.

For instance, the Michigan Bureau of EMS, Trauma, and Preparedness said in 2019 that the number of students graduating from paramedic training in the Wolverine State had decreased from 1,200 to 250 students annually over the three previous years.

In 2022, an American Ambulance Association study of employee turnover discovered that 39 percent of part-time EMT positions were unfilled, as well as 55 percent of part-time paramedic jobs.

Scott Rowekamp | Associate General Counsel for Labor and Employment | Global Medical Response

Scott Rowekamp | Associate General Counsel for Labor and Employment | Global Medical Response

In Buffalo, New York, in 2018, American Medical Response, a company within Global Medical Response, launched its “Earn While You Learn” program. The goal was to help fill vacant EMT positions with a mix of on-the-job training while paying new hires’ tuition for their basic EMT certifications.

The program has been successful over the past five years and now includes diversity, equity and inclusion training—and 56 percent of the Buffalo graduates are women and 51 percent are minorities.

Scott Rowekamp, who has served as associate general counsel for labor and employment for GMR and its predecessors since 2008, provides legal support for the expanding Earn While You Learn programs as well as the company’s DEI initiatives. He says filling the vacant jobs with a diverse workforce is professionally and personally rewarding.

“I’ve always thought that working as an EMT or paramedic can be a long term, satisfying career that doesn’t require a college degree,” Rowekamp says. “We’re helping underserved communities and we recognize that not everyone has the financing and time to take time out of their lives to go to EMT school.”

Ready to rescue

Headquartered in Greenwood Village, Colorado, Global Medical Response provides medical care and rescue services in more than 4,000 U.S. communities, as well as private transportation services such as taking patients for treatments like dialysis.

GMR’s operations include AMR, Rural Metro Fire, Air Evac Lifeteam, REACH Air Medical Services, Med-Trans Corp., AirMed International and Guardian Flight. In all, GMR has 38,000 employees and a fleet of 8,100 ambulances, 167 fire vehicles, 372 rotor-wing aircraft such as helicopters and 127 fixed-wing aircraft. The aircraft operate from 392 air base locations and GMR also provides 911 response and dispatch for communities at 64 communication centers.

Rowekamp joined Envision Healthcare Corp., GMR’s predecessor, when the company created the position to manage labor and employment law in-house. In his role, he works with HR as well as with the company’s operations management on employment issues that may arise. That includes working with the labor relations team as well as union attorneys and representatives—more than 50 percent of GMR’s EMTs and paramedics are represented by a labor union.

Following the success of the program in Buffalo, Earn While You Learn programs were launched in New Haven, Connecticut, in April 2021 and then in Manchester, New Hampshire, that August.

Rowekamp estimates there are currently two dozen programs, and Tom Maxian, president of AMR’s Northeast Region operations, says the program has added more than 1,100 trained EMTs to the company—enough to staff 500 ambulances.

Rowekamp has managed legal details for the program since its inception, including reviewing the contracts for recruits and the schools providing the courses. He’s also helped HR with any issues that may arise during EWYL training, which could include interpersonal issues in the classroom to requests for religious or medical accommodations.  

DEI is personal

GMR is also addressing diversity, equity and inclusion with a DEI Resource Group. It was formed in 2020 in response to employee concerns as well as the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, and the police killing of Breonna Taylor. Rowekamp represents the legal department and the group also includes local managers and staff from areas including HR and marketing.

The group has surveyed employees for input on improving the company culture, written newsletters for managers and added training to create more inclusive workplaces. To celebrate Black History Month, GMR asked employees to provide stories about their culture and heritage. Rowekamp says the company is considering adding more inclusive holidays for when it closes offices and offers holiday pay for the emergency responders who have to work.

Scott Rowekamp | Associate General Counsel for Labor and Employment | Global Medical Response

DEI initiatives resonate with Rowekamp personally. A native of Minnesota, he grew up in an area where the population was 98 percent white. He earned his bachelor’s degree in government from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, an area that’s also about 98 percent white.

After earning his J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School, Rowekamp went into private practice and met his wife, a Black woman. They are raising three sons, and when a GMR employee speaks out about their experiences culturally and professionally, Rowekamp takes it to heart.

“By helping GMR do the right thing for its employees on DEI issues, I believe I am contributing in a small way to improving the world of work my sons will be entering as Black men,” he says.

Aligned in his practice

While growing up in Minnesota may have insulated Rowekamp from issues of inequality he now works to prevent, he says he did know by middle school that he wanted to become an attorney.

“I was better at liberal arts courses and I did enjoy legal dramas,” he says. “It just seemed like a profession that would suit me.”

While earning his bachelor’s degree in government at Dartmouth, Rowekamp also studied for a trimester at the Universitat de Barcelona. While earning his J.D. from the University of Michigan, he was an executive editor with the Michigan Journal of Race and Law.

After graduating, Rowekamp went into private practice in Dallas in 2000 as an associate at the firm of Cowles & Thompson P.C., practicing business litigation and transactions. In 2002, he joined Roberts & Smaby as an associate practicing business litigation.

When Rowekamp was recruited to practice labor and employment law at the Dallas firm of Jenkens & Gilchrist in 2003, he says he found the areas aligned with what he focused on in law school.

He also practiced labor and employment law with Hunton & Williams LLP before joining GMR.

“The people in the field are doing the real jobs, and then behind them are the support folks I help,” Rowekamp says. “We have a tremendous HR team. The best part of my job is my interaction with HR and managers. I love to work with people across the country from Hawaii to Boston.”

View this feature in the Vanguard Spring III 2023 Edition here.

Published on: May 2, 2023

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