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Dr Nikki

Elite Mountaineer, World-Record Holder & Cardiologist

Feel the Fear: shaping attitude with altitude.

Nikki Bart is an elite mountaineer, and world record holder for being part of the first ever mother-daughter team to climb Mt. Everest.

Upon reaching the top, they also became the first mother-daughter duo to complete the Seven Summits: climbing the highest peak of every continent in the world. Nikki has also skied unsupported to the North Pole and climbed the tallest Volcano in remote Antarctica.
For her accomplishments, she was the recipient of the National Geographic “Spirit of Adventure “Award.

Current Work:

Nikki is also a heart failure and transplant cardiologist, looking after some of the sickest patients in Australia. She performs invasive, high-risk procedures after years of patients to help people with failing hearts. Nikki’s love of helping sick patients has also led her to heart failure research, and she is the laboratory head leading a pioneering research group.

She holds a PhD from Oxford University and has been the recipient of several prestigious leadership and research scholarships including the Fulbright and Sir John Monash Scholarship. Nikki’s unique leadership and teamwork skillset as an elite sportsperson and a highly skilled clinician-researcher make her a sought-after keynote speaker and team facilitator. She teaches yearly on the topics of management and leadership for the Harvard Extension School.

In addition, she has spoken for several high-powered executive teams including the Young Presidents’ Organisation, Google Connected Women and BMW. Nikki’s speakers’ topics include leadership, risk management and goal setting. She is also available for offsite facilitation of executive teams.

Talking Points

High Octane Teamwork at High Altitude

At high altitude, having a strong team can often make the difference between life of death. When you look at the 1996 Everest disaster, there are several things we can learn about working as a team. We can also apply this to teamwork during the pandemic. A lot of the principles of high altitude can apply to businesses and organisations.

Nikki will use her skills as a high-altitude mountaineer and a heart failure cardiologist to discuss building healthy teams in high-pressure environments. She has taught these lessons yearly to the Boston Harvard Extension School Leadership course.

Key Takeaways:
- How to build strong teams.
- How to use your team members/strengths and weaknesses for the whole team's benefit.
- How to lead a team through difficulty.

The “Double Carry”: the Twists and Turns that Make the Journey.

If you were to be dropped in a helicopter to the top of Mt. Everest, even with an oxygen tank, you would die, because your body isn’t acclimatized. What people don’t often realise is that when you climb Everest, you end up climbing the mountain about four times! This because you end up“double carrying”, that is, trekking up to a higher camp to acclimatise and deliver gear and equipment before descending back to lower altitudes. On one trip up Everest, you go as high as camp three, well above 7,000 metres, the height of the highest mountain outside of the Himalayas, and then all the way back down to basecamp.

This process of up and down the mountain can be emotionally and physically vexing. Along the way, you get sick, downtrodden, and sometimes even want to give up. Yet it is this very process that makes you strong enough to succeed.

Key Takeaways:
- Learn to embrace challenges as opportunities.
- Learn to separate process from outcomes.
- How to enjoy the journey!

Beat-by-Beat: How to Act with Heart and Mind

As a cardiologist, when Nikki sees a patient, they can download every bit of data available to them from their iPhone: heart rate, step count, and menstrual cycle. Wearable technology means we have more information than we possibly know what to do with, and our heads are so hunched forwards, staring at our phones we don’t seem to notice the world around us. Despite living longer, we are leaving in one sense our “alive” lives with higher levels of social disconnection, mental health, and disengagement. We as a community have poorer health despite living longer. Obesity, diabetes, and chronic illness is omnipresent.

How can we live longer but also more “alive”? Maybe we need to look at the intersection of medicine and art/the grey areas, and learn from these? Living with our hearts and minds and healing our hearts and minds might hold the key. Nikki is uniquely qualified to deliver this keynote, drawing on stories from healing sick hearts to her own experience in the death zone on Mount Everest. She works with her audience to get them to question how to act with both heart and mind.

Key Takeaways:
- Finding balance.
- Leaning into rest and play.
- Finding your flow.

Top of the Mountain: The “Overview” Effect

When astronauts first went into space and saw the Earth, they realised that our differences seem smaller, and what unites is very clear. The same is true from the highest point on Earth. When you climb a mountain and disconnect, you realise that everything in your own silo feels small. You realise the value of having water to wash your face because you need to melt ice on a small Bunsen burner to create it. You also realise how small you are as an individual, and how important it is to work as a team.

We are becoming more and more sub-specialised and niche experts in our chosen fields. This includes medicine/science/engineering/law etc. Plus, we are becoming more siloed into our own individual social media echo chambers, with people having social media curated specifically for them. This inevitably means that we are losing the ability to see the big picture and work laterally outside our comfort zones to solve unique problems.

There is a lot we can learn from the curiosity that being in big mountains brings. The power of being under a vast sky with no light or noise pollution. What if we applied this awe and curiosity to the way we live our lives? Maybe curiosity is the antidote to living in the silos we have been carefully and unwittingly curating.

Key Takeaways:
- Have curiosity when looking at your life/work/love.
- Apply curiosity to your team, especially if they think different from you.
- Actively seek out “challenge groups” with different opinions

“Digging in” for the Jetstream Winds Ahead

Being a high-altitude mountaineer is profession with guaranteed adversity.

When Nikki was in her first month of being a junior doctor after 6 years of medical school, she broke her ankle into a million different pieces. Nikki was stuck in a canyon overnight, in the dark with a broken ankle and then helicoptered out in the morning. She spent 2 weeks in hospital and six weeks in a boot. When she went back to work, she was given an OH&S assessment and told to be the geriatrics intern. The patients had a lot of fun because every nonagenarian was faster than her. This single lesson taught Nikki more about humility and resilience than her 6 years of medical school combined.

Key Takeaways:
- Power of struggle.
- Resilience.
- Grit- leaning into both passion and persistence.

Visualise the Route and Commit To It: Muscle Memory

At high altitudes, your body is deprived of oxygen, and this makes it hard to function. Blood tests done on mountaineers in the South Col, one of the highest points on Everest below the summit, show that these climbers have oxygen levels akin to dying intensive care patients.

When you think of the summit, and the death zone, all of this can be overwhelming.

Maybe the best way to start is to plan, but then focus on each small step and recovery steps at the end of each breath.

Training for Everest means committing every step to muscle memory because you cannot rely on your executive functions at high altitudes. This involves simulating the icefall over swimming pools and with ladders up trees. The same is true of preparing yourself to perform an invasive procedure in cardiology to save someone’s life. You can’t be thinking about your hands, your body needs just to remember what to do so you can focus on the patient and task at hand. This involves thousands of hours of drills, so that the routine is second nature. Nikki will help you apply these skills to your own work tasks.

Key Takeaways:
- Breaking things down into manageable tasks.
- How to plan for a goal, but then be mindful in the moment.
- How to train to the point of muscle memory.
Your Keynote on motivation & leadership on the mountain I believe really hit its mark. I've already had several people tell me how much they gained from the session - and how your conversation really added to our overall discussion on the topic. I have seen several discussion posts mentioning how it changed the way they saw a few things at work and were going to adjust their perspective. Harvard Extension School

Thank you sincerely for your valued support and participation this year especially for our WPO 10th Anniversary Programme event in Leadership.

Young Presidents Organisation

All of the team were inspired, motivated and in awe of your accomplishments - and of course, it reminded me of how privileged I am to know people like you and Cheryl. We evaluate all of our sessions and with one or two exceptions, you rated 'exceeded expectations', length of time allocated was 'just right' and information presented 'perfect'. Well done to you and again my huge thanks for incorporating some of our change themes into your presentation - this was unexpected and an enormous value add to what we were trying to achieve during the week.

BB Retail Capital

On behalf of the Google Connected Women Australia team, I would like to say a big thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with our community during our Redefine Your Limits & Build Personal Resilience talk. After all the difficult and unpredictable changes our community as a collectively went through during 2020, hearing your remarkable story of lessons learnt from the mountain was a big inspiration and reminder of the strength and willpower we each have. Some feedback received from attendees included "Nikki in particular was great to hear from as she integrates these big feats into everyday life, making big dreams seem achievable" and "Nikki Bart's 3 messages resonate strongly with me, they were clear and relevant in the current climate. Just like Nikki achieves each of her climbs and lives to tell the story, we will do just the same as we come out of the current mountain we're facing". Our community is incredibly grateful for your insights and personal sharing, and hope to get the chance to hear from you again!

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