The students, known as Climb Pioneers, started the programme in September 2021 and have received a diverse range of teaching from world-renowned experts and an immersive leadership experience facilitated by Dark Swan, based on the training they routinely provide for elite military and sporting teams.

At the programme’s Summit event, which took place in the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on the 24th and 25th May, the pioneers each delivered a 15-minute presentation or Ed-Talk (named for Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person to successful climb Mount Everest with climbing partner Tenzing Norgay) which they had worked to develop over the course of the programme.

The talks were a collection of personal and professional stories, each with a core concept relating to an ask or ambition about which the Pioneer was passionate. These ranged from improving the environmental sustainability of the health and care system, as demonstrated with green doughnuts, the leadership lessons you can learn from professional sports teams and how every interaction you have in work matters, increasing representation across all aspects of health and care, and why this is vital, and how good governance can save the world!

The Summit also featured a number of prestigious guest speakers, such as Peter Hillary, a New Zealand mountaineer, philanthropist and writer, and son of Sir Edmund Hillary, Jane Booth-Tobin, P3 Lab Director from John Hopkins University in Baltimore, and Eugene Fidelis-Soh, Chief Executive of the Tan Tock Seng Hospital in Singapore.

On the evening of the 24th May, the Pioneers attended their graduation ceremony in Cardiff Castle, where they were each presented with a Hillary International Award for Health and Care Leadership by Peter Hillary and Julie Morgan MS, Deputy Minister for Social Services in Wales.

The awards themselves are the product of local Welsh craftsmanship using storm-damaged timber taken from the foothills of Snowdon. They are replicas of the ice-axes used in the 1953 expedition, of the kind now found decorating the walls of the Pen Y Gwryd Hotel, the base for Sir John Hunt and his team’s Everest training.

There were three awards to recognise the different levels of achievement throughout a leader’s career: ‘base camp’, ‘ascent’ and ‘summit’, with each of the Climb Pioneers receiving a base camp award.

The event was a celebration of everything that the Pioneers had achieved together over the course of the last year, recognising the journey they had been on in finding both themselves and each other as leaders in an increasingly complex world.

Dr Jonathon Gray, the Climb programme’s lead, said, “From the start, Climb was heralded as a community rather than a course and, for the truly multidisciplinary cohort that has just graduated from it, that sense community was undoubtedly one of the programme’s greatest strengths.

“The levels of self-belief and confidence as leaders present at the summit was overwhelming and a marked difference from the beginning of the programme. It was as though they were different people and I am so proud of what each of the pioneers have achieved over the course of Climb However, of course for them it was only the beginning, and I cannot wait to hear about their next successes and each success after that.”

Lisa Humphrey, General Manager of Glangwili Hospital in Hywel Dda UHB, said, “Climb has introduced me to this group of talented individuals; it has been an honour and a pleasure to spend time with every one of them. I have learned so much from them and also a lot more about myself: my core values and my leadership style. I am confident that if there were a call on us to plan, deliver and implement a response to a local or national problem or question then we have the range of skills, abilities and passion to respond. Climb is a unique and clever concept in building a network and community of likeminded thinkers and I am looking forward to working with the next cohort and growing our community.”

Anna Spencer, Individual Patient Care Commissioning Manager at Swansea Bay UHB, said, “The summit was the place that I strived to get to, but took tentative steps to get there. I needn’t have worried as much as I did. Meeting our international friends and delivering my Ed-Ex Talk at the Principality Stadium was an experience I will never forget and of which I will always be proud. The evening meal at Cardiff Castle was the icing on the cake for us all. This is not the end of our journey and I look forward to continuing to work with the next cohort.

Dr Kerry-Ann Holder, Consultant Clinical Psychologist in Cardiff and Vale UHB, said, “At the start of Climb, the Summit felt out of reach. We each had so many worries and severe cases of imposter syndrome were common across the group. The programme has been a rollercoaster of emotions and experiences; simultaneously uplifting and exhausting. I am excited about what Climb has given this band of 30 brothers and sisters. We were there together, we made it together. The summit was an amazing ending to the programme. It made me feel like I had achieved more than any exam or essay; it was something tangible and real, and has made me very proud to be able to say ‘I was a part of that.’”

The second cohort of Climb is now full but if you’re interested in applying for our third cohort, click here. Applications will open in winter 2022/23.

Bryn Kentish
Written by:
Bryn Kentish