During Women’s History Month, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is highlighting talented Women in Privacy. We recognize Ms. Rita Grewal, Registered Health Information Administrator and Certified Information Privacy Professional, who is a Supervisor at VA’s Privacy Risk Management and Compliance Branch, OIT Privacy Officer, and the Program Manager for VA’s Social Security Number Reduction Program.
When and why did you begin working in privacy?
I’ve always worked in privacy – for over 30 years actually – though I technically started in health information management (HIM) by applying privacy laws to that data. I transitioned into privacy at VA after the 2006 privacy breach when privacy ventured into a career of its own. At that point, it became a field of its own rather than a focus within HIM.
When and why did you become Office of Information and Technology’s (OIT) Privacy Officer?
At a local VA Medical Center level, I was their Privacy Officer Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) officer, and records management officer for the facility. There were six different Community Based Outpatient Clinics and the medical center. Additionally, we had an OIT data center collocated with the medical center and I worked closely with their assessments. Since I was local, I supported the OIT privacy functions, and in 2014 I transitioned formally to the OIT privacy officer when it became open – and I’ve enjoyed every moment of it ever since.
What makes you passionate about working in privacy?
Anything that involves helping others is what I’m passionate about. With privacy I feel like I am serving the Veterans by protecting their data, and that makes me very motivated. I come from a family with a military background, so it’s always been important to me. By being in the privacy field and protecting Veterans’ data, I am privileged and passionate about helping Veterans in that area.
What tips do you have for other women who want to work in privacy?
Working for VA and as Chief of Health Information Management, I have collaborated with local universities and schools to encourage women in those typically female professions to come and intern at VA. I’ve provided mentorship to these women. I encourage them to read up on privacy and ensure the education and training they receive relates to privacy by helping them pick some classes that connect to privacy, for example. There’s not a lot of formal privacy courses out there, so I try to provide that assistance and resources to help them in their careers. I really do suggest they intern with a paid professional and find a mentor they can work with to make sure privacy is really something they want to pursue as their careers.
What’s a fun fact about you?
My daughter is also in the privacy arena! Actually, she didn’t start out on that career path. I spoke with her when she was younger about privacy but I didn’t want to push anything, so when she studied something else that was, of course, fine. However, after a few years when she came to me asking about how to switch career fields and get into privacy, I was secretly elated and provided more information on classes and certifications. She went on to receive her master’s degree in a related field and now she’s working to obtain her law degree in the same field.
Also, I am a great baker, cook international cuisine with a fusion twist, and I speak four languages: English, Punjabi, Hindi, and Urdu.
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.