8 Questions with Claus Torp Jensen

Memorial Sloan Kettering Chief Digital Officer and Head of Technology Claus Torp Jensen

Claus Torp Jensen says MSK could become a digital hub for cancer-related information and assistance.

By Jim Stallard

Claus Torp Jensen recently joined Memorial Sloan Kettering as the institution’s first Chief Digital Officer and Head of Technology. He is spearheading efforts to adopt and incorporate digital technology into all daily activity at MSK. 

What exactly does a Chief Digital Officer do?

My job title doesn’t have a standard definition. At MSK, I see my role as helping decide how we integrate the physical space and the digital space. There’s a misconception that digital technology is all about new apps. New apps in a hospital might mean that something on a phone or computer would streamline an existing process. But using digital technology is much more than that. It’s about changing the day-to-day experience of cancer care and prevention.

For example, what if doctors could help patients manage symptoms by monitoring them continuously at home to see how they are eating or sleeping or if they are getting exercise? On the research side, we could search for clues about how to better combat cancer by connecting clinical data with genomic insights. My task is to define that vision, determine where we should focus our efforts, and turn it into action.

How can new digital technology help MSK better fulfill its mission?

MSK is proud of its core mission of conquering cancer. We won’t change who we are. But there are physical constraints: We have a certain number of buildings, and there are only so many doctors and nurses available to care for patients. We must find a way to help more people and increase our influence in cancer care. With digital tools, we can help prevent cancer through education and advice. MSK could become a digital hub where all types of people go for advice and assistance relating to cancer.

MSK is proud of its core mission of conquering cancer. We won't change who we are.
Claus Torp Jensen Chief Digital Officer and Head of Technology

Were you into technology from a young age?

I decided I wanted to do computer science in eighth grade. I grew up in Denmark, and my Latin teacher’s husband was one of the first in the country to get a computer science degree, which sparked my interest. This was 1981, and I bought a Sinclair ZX81, the first home computer. I wrote a program on it to help me practice Latin verbs.

Do you have any rules about technology at home?

I have two daughters in high school, and we have a lot of technology in our house. I can’t really control what they do on the Internet, so my one rule is to stay secure. Protect your personal information and your credit card information, and don’t get a computer virus.

What would your ideal second career be?

I love teaching. I did not expect it would be something I enjoyed so much, but in college I was a substitute teacher in computer science for six years. If I get to a point where I no longer want to have an intensive executive career driving industry-level changes, I might go back to trying to help people become better — one person at a time.

What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

I love to read science fiction. I also love traveling, especially going on cruises. Give me a cruise ship and some interesting places to go and I will enjoy it. I dream of doing an around-the-world cruise when I retire.

Is it true you are in the Guinness Book of World Records?

Yes! In 1987 in Denmark, four of us set the record for the world’s largest solitaire game. We used 200 decks of cards in a gymnasium and had to complete it within 12 hours. It was not nearly as easy as we expected — it required a lot of exhausting running from one end of the gymnasium to the other!

What makes you most excited to come to work each day?

The people. When I got my computer science degree, I expected to be a techie sitting in a corner at my computer. But I really enjoy connecting with people, helping people, and helping organizations change. I want to help create change at MSK so that I can contribute to a better team, a better institution, and a better world.

MSK News Spring 2020
Read about the discoveries of Maria Jasin, how data is playing an increasingly important role in patient care, and more in the Spring issue of MSK News.