The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is completing the Women in Privacy initiative for Women’s History Month with a bang. To close out this month, VA is shining a light on Andrea Wilson who is the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Privacy Office Manager. Keep reading to learn more about Ms. Wilson and her role as a woman in privacy.
When and why did you begin working in privacy?
I’ve been working at VA for 32 years as of October 2020. From 2001-2003 I was the Chief of Health Information Management and Privacy Officer (PO) in Orlando, Florida. While I was there I was asked to participate in a working group to rewrite the privacy manual M-1 Part 1 Chapter 9 that changed into Directive 1605.01 – Privacy and Release of Information. That’s really how I got involved in privacy! In 2003 I started working for Ms. Stephania Griffin, who was also in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule working group in the Information Access and Privacy Office; we’ve been colleagues since.
What makes you passionate about working in privacy?
What makes me so passionate is that individuals’ information is everywhere, and we must do whatever we can to protect not only our Veterans’ privacy, but also our employees’ privacy. The more informed people are about their privacy, the more secure their information will be. Due diligence is a big part of protecting individual’s privacy. Everything has an element of privacy – you can’t go online or on your phone without signing into an app that contains a privacy banner describing what pieces of your information they may or may not be sharing. A vast number of people don’t read the banner before signing and agreeing to sharing or selling of their information. The more people who advocate for privacy, the better!
How do you see privacy trends progressing in the next few years?
Privacy and security go hand-in-hand, so as privacy progresses, we will see an increase in security controls as well. Another trend will be an increase of privacy advocates who will fight to keep people’s information safe and let people know there are consequences when you violate someone’s privacy. Finally, I believe people will become more aware of the information they’re sharing, especially on social media. Veterans are becoming increasingly savvy with their privacy, and that should and will continue.
What tips do you have for other women who want to work in privacy?
I don’t have tips for women in privacy because privacy is not gender-specific, but my tip for anyone who wants to work in the field is that privacy is ever-changing with regulations and statutes and you will always have job security. It is a major field and there is plenty of information available on how to protect privacy. Finally, be an advocate!
Protect all privacy documents as if they were your own; access does not mean you have authority to disclose information.
What’s a fun fact about you?
I’ll be retiring in 4.5 months, in the summer of 2021!
I am an optimist, and my philosophy is: You are in control of your own destiny, so do something you love as life is too short. Corny, I know, but it works for me.
Any final words before you retire from VA?
For our POs, the takeaway is: You have such an important privacy role and you deserve a large “thank you,” which you may or may not hear very often. So, I am taking this opportunity to thank the POs for a job well done. We’re all in this together.
Our commitment to digital and IT transformation is shaped by daily dedication to customer service and the close collaboration of our workforce, managers, and leaders. Ready to join us in improving Veterans’ care? Check out all current information and technology career opportunities on DigitalVA. You can also contact VA’s Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer at 512-326-6600, Monday thru Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST or by submitting a resume to VACareers@va.gov.