Elimu Kajunju ’05 counsels companies—including Google Health—on how to protect clients and customers’ privacy
A job in privacy law is not for the faint of heart. The specialty is constantly changing yet plays an outsize role in the operation of companies’ products and services. That makes it the perfect career for Elimu Kajunju ’05, uniting his skills in technology, business, and law, and his proclivity for being a serial learner and teacher.
As head of health information privacy at Google Health since earlier this year, Kajunju is responsible for managing privacy controls and protections for all its health-focused products. Using cloud technology and artificial intelligence, the company can both be an outlet for storing medical records (thus the need for stringent privacy measures) and using the accumulated data in groundbreaking research. One notable example was a 10-year partnership with Mayo Clinic, announced in 2019.
It’s a varied job for Kajunju, including overseeing technology implementations and ensuring that Google Health complies with regulatory and contractual requirements.
Kajunju has his hands in any legal or technical privacy consideration affecting Google Health’s offerings, such as its Care Studio product for health systems and clinicians or artificial intelligence tools that aim to improve health challenges like diagnosing diseases.
“Google Health is doing some really innovative things in health care,” says Kajunju, 48, of Atlanta. “Having worked in large healthcare organizations’ privacy, compliance, and legal teams, I have the ability to apply my privacy expertise in a new and emerging space where technology and health care intersect in a really interesting way.”
Running the privacy team at Google Health is a culmination of Kajunju’s tenure in health, security, and privacy law. He started as an internet security engineer before deciding to break into privacy law. It was an independent study during law school with intellectual property Professor Sharon Sandeen that confirmed his new career path could be interesting and challenging.
Kajunju’s first legal job involved working on emerging HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) privacy and security issues at Park Nicollet in the Twin Cities, giving him an early window into the field. He then took on privacy law and security roles at Carlson Companies, where he gained international experience, and then held positions at Boston Scientific, UnitedHealthcare, McKesson, and DaVita.
Kajunju gravitates to roles where he can learn new things at companies making real impacts in people’s lives. “The health care mission is something that resonates with me,” he says. “A company can make money and do great things. But there is often an individual who, due to those products and services, is getting better health care or is able to live longer or better.”
Born in Kinshasa, Congo, Kajunju graduated from high school in Liberia. He became a refugee soon after during the Liberian civil war. These experiences shaped his motivation to lift people up by being a good manager and mentor.
Kajunju’s calendar, like one of most privacy leaders, is chock full of meetings and mini crises, yet Kajunju makes time to counsel many others. “Throughout my career,” he says, “it’s been important to me to help those who are disadvantaged, who have fewer opportunities, and help them navigate their path to whatever they would consider success.”
This article was written by freelance writer Suzy Frisch