James Cancer Hospital Discusses the Crucial Importance of Proper Cybersecurity Practices and Disaster Recovery Plans

Dr. Michael Townsend - Columbus Tech Power Player Honoree

R. Michael Townsend, Ph.D.


Ohio State Comprehensive Cancer Center - James Cancer Hospital



Jim Burden

Columbus Sales Manager

RoundTower Technologies


To listen to the podcast, click here!


The CIO for The James, Dr. Michael Townsend, discusses the crucial importance of proper cybersecurity practices and disaster recovery plans.


Hello, and welcome to the comSpark podcast, where you will get to meet today's technology thought leaders. To learn more, visit comspark.tech.


JB: Good afternoon. We are here today with Michael Townsend, the Chief Information Officer of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center and the James Cancer Hospital. My name is Jim Burden and I'm with RoundTower Technologies, and I will be your guest moderator for today.  Dr. Townsend, let's get started. As we all know, we're hearing more and more about security and how it's affecting everyone in the world today. As a public institution, how worried should we be about security, and how is it affecting your organization?


MT: So, if you're not really hardening your systems these days, you really should be worried. I mean, that’s the end of the story there. Today, there are so many issues, with possible break ins, and you hear all the news about things like ransomware and the like. So, we have a lot of concerns about that and we proactively do things about that. I can't emphasize enough that Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery are critically important. And if you're not really thinking about that, you should be.


JB: How has this affected the way you approach your business model at the Cancer Center?


MT: Well, being prepared for BCDR is a reality and must be part of the businesses understanding and compliance. It means a greater cost, both in materials, training, testing, etc. It's difficult to get people to understand exactly what it is, but they have to be engaged. It's not just an IT thing. It's a partnership between the businesses and the technology and, in fact, environmental services. Everything. Everyone has to be concerned about it.


JB: In that light, is it important to take it right down to the personal devices that folks use today? Cell phones, laptops?


MT: Sure. sure. If it's something that we actually manage – which we provide, I should say – then we actually manage those things. If it's something that someone brings in, you know, the BYOD issue, right? They have limited, much more limited, access to what they can do or it's cumbersome for them to do the same thing. So, there's an encouragement to be compliant and working with what we've provided them with. It’s a hard thing to keep up with, believe me.


JB: How have you encouraged your employees to take part in the security practices that you do?


MT: Well, there's two things. One, encouragement is an interesting word because for some things, for them to get access to it, they must be compliant or they simply can't be part of it. But obviously there's a lot of education that we provide, individual personalized service, helping people get through things, documentation, making recommendations, etc. And of course, training people on the possibility of something bad happening and what the ramifications of that are to them personally but also, obviously, to the business.


JB: Great. Thank you. Let's shift gears a little bit and talk about the service desk. How has your company approached end user support through the service desk?


MT: So, we're a ServiceNow operation and we have a lot of interesting connections within the CCC., which is why we have an operations team that takes care of desktops, laptops, servers and the like. We feel that it's important for us to be embedded with our clients so we know them, we understand where they are, how they operate, what works for them, what doesn't work for them. We try to educate and be part of that. So, we also encourage them, obviously, to put in tickets for things that they need done. Why would we do that? One, so they can track where things are, but also statistically we can understand if we see 30-something problems of a certain sort in January and also in February, what do you think is going to happen in March? So, we maybe proactively do something to eliminate that.


JB:  Great. To finish our conversation, let me ask you a question that I like to ask most of the CIOs that we talk to. How have the changes and the new technologies affected your role as a CIO over the past couple of years?


MT: Wow. So, that's pretty interesting. You know, it used to be the case that if you were a tried and true technologist, you could just bury yourself in technology, making sure that it works for people. But not anymore. You really have to be multifaceted, you have to concern yourself with finance, you have to concern yourself, obviously, with the business community. You have to really understand the business and actually be part of moving that all forward. So, it has become much more complex. In fact, the CIO role – what I tell my people my actual job is – is to get people to shake hands and spend money wisely using technology in a safe and secure way so that they can better do what they're doing, make it more efficient, etc. So, every dimension you can think of, whether it's talking to someone, finding solutions, training, education, and putting out fires when you need to.


JB: That's great. Well, thank you and thank you so much for your time. This has been Jim Burden and Dr. Michael Townsend. To learn more about us, please visit comspark.tech.  Goodbye. Until next time. Thank you.


To learn more about sponsorship opportunities for 2019, contact Michelle Ziegler at michelle.ziegler@venuemag.net