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Life story
December 1, 1954

Biography of Peter Martins Ndumbe,

Medical Doctor- Infectious Diseases [Microbiologist, Immunologist and Clinical Epidemiologist], Public Health Practitioner, Professor of Medicine

MD, MSc, PhD, DLSHTM, MIBiol, CBiol

            1st December 1954 - 14th May, 2013




Peter Martins Ndumbe, was otherwise known to his close friends, admirers, secondary school class and school-mates, as Simon Templar, The Saint - a British fictional character featured in a long-running book series written by Leslie Charteris and published between 1928 and 1963. The character of the Saint was fashioned after that of a modern-day Robin Hood - a debonair, resourceful, lovable and likeable, rogue-thief who extracted wealth from the corrupt rich and gave the spoils to the down-trodden, deprived poor. In some ways, Peter's life is reminiscent of the life lived by that fictional character after whom he was nick-named, in the mid-sixties, by his childhood friend.  


Here is the story of a boy who arrived Cameroon Protestant College, Bali in September, 1965 with a mission, a purpose, lived a full, active and productive life with hardly a moment wasted, impacted the lives of many, left his indelible footprints in the sands of time... and then, like all of our mortal kind,...died - on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 in Pretoria, South Africa:


Born to Papa Martin Ndumbe Kepe (of Ofrikpabi village in Nguti Sub Division and Mama Fanny Fese Kepe née Nkumba, (a princess of Kurume village), on the 1st day of December 1954, in Mbonge, Peter, "Simon Templar", "The Saint", attended the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) primary school, (later changed to Council School), Bota between 1958 and 1965. 


After completing primary school, he was admitted into the Cameroon Protestant College Bali, arguably, one of the top secondary schools in West Cameroon at the time. He was registered into class 1A and assigned living quarters in O’Neill House, where he would spend five years of his life.                                                 


His classmates, friends, schoolmates, would remember a gangly, handsome, baby-faced, affable and talkative kid, who moved with long strides and ungainly steps and, seemingly, uncoordinated, but purposeful, movements of his upper body and long legs, which carried him around the school campus with a clear sense of direction.  He was a boy one could hardly ignore and who always made sure his presence was felt whenever and wherever he was amongst his friends and peers.  Never shy, very friendly, almost hyperactive, he was almost always present when and where there was action.  Behind this extroverted front, lay an astute and alert mind, given to careful, strategic, planning.  He was always amongst the top ten in his class.  He loved sports and his favorite game was basketball.  He would be seen playing basketball, sometimes alone, practicing, throwing hoops in the basketball court, over and over again... honing his skills and always seeking perfection in his craft.



So it happened that in his second year (class two) at CPC Bali, Peter and a group of close friends formed an informal reading competition club, supervised by the American Missionary-Vice Principal and library master, Reverend Gilbert G. Gordon.  Each student would read books of their own choosing and summarize each of them in only one page of an exercise notebook.  At the end of the term, they would submit the exercise book(s), with all the summaries of books read, to the library master for appraisal.  The idea was not only to see who read the most books, but, also, who submitted the most articulate, pertinent summaries (or précis, as they were called).  Although grades were not awarded and this exercise did not count towards the end of term grading of students, one would later acknowledge that this practice set the basis for the independent pursuit of knowledge and excellence seen in many CPC Bali students of that class.  Surely, the results of this early culture of academic discipline would shine brightly and clearly in Peter's later life.


Peter set up a strategy to out read his friends, and have time for study.  He negotiated and obtained a position of library assistant to the library master.  Whenever the other members of the class went out to perform the mandatory manual labor in the afternoon - cutting grass and working in the school gardens, etc., - he, as a library assistant, exempt from such chores, would head for the library, where he read to his heart's and mind's desire.  Knowingly or not, he had chosen his professional path in life, for books and the pursuit of knowledge, subsequently became his life's passion and goal.  He later became the consummate academic he had set out to be in those early years. Needless to say, bolstered by his library privileges, at the end of each school term, he would, almost invariably, record the most books read and summarized.  This culture of careful, strategic planning, positioning and study, would pay off handsomely.


He later became education prefect, graduated in 1970 and obtained the London University General Certificate of Education, Ordinary Level. 


From CPC Bali, he proceeded to the Cameroon College of Arts, Sciences and Technology (CCAST), Bambili, where he not only excelled academically, but distinguished himself as a member of the renowned "Top Executives Club", a club whose membership focused on students with the promise of leadership and community service.  True to this vision, the club's motto was to "promote, uphold, project and protect the dignity of man and the dignity of labor".  Many young men, who became members of that club, would become servants and leaders in their respective communities around the world.  Peter would, later on, exemplify such leadership and service to his community within and outside Cameroon.



After graduating from CCAST Bambili and obtaining his GCE Advanced Level Certificate, he enrolled at the University Center for Health Sciences (CUSS), University of Yaounde, in 1973, from where he graduated in 1979 with a degree of Doctor of Medicine, "avec mention très honorable".



Upon his graduation from CUSS, he worked, from September 1980 to August 1981, as Divisional Chief of Preventive Medicine and Rural Health Services in Donga - Mantung Division of the North West Province in Cameroon.  There, began his experiences in community health.


Between 1981 and 1985, he studied at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Royal Postgraduate Medical School and the Institute of Child Health, University of London, and obtained the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees, in Medical Microbiology and Immunology, respectively.


In 1984 he became an Associate Member of the Royal College of Pathologists, UK and in 1990, a Chartered Biologist and Member of the Institute of Biology, (IOB) London.


He spoke and worked with amazing ease in both English and French and had a minimal grasp of the German Language.


In 1986, after brilliantly completing his graduate studies at the University of London, he returned to Cameroon and began a breath-taking career in medicine, teaching and research.  He was hired by the Ministry of Health, appointed to, and occupied, the position of Consultant and Head of Clinical Immunology, Department of Medicine, at The Central Hospital, Yaoundé between January 1986 and December 1992.


Between 1987-1996, he was appointed to and held the position of Chairman of the Research Section at the National AIDS Commission, Yaoundé. Later on he would become the Chairman of that Commission.




Between 1989 and 1994, he was the Hepatitis B Vaccine Project Manager at the Ministry of Health, Yaoundé, Cameroon.


From 1991-2001 he was Deputy Director, Institute of Medical Research and Studies on Medicinal Plants.


Between 1992 and 2007, he headed the Department of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University of Yaoundé I.


In 1995 he became the Founding Director of Camdiagnostix, a production unit for a rapid test for the detection of antibodies against the HIV virus, a position he held till 2000.


Between 1988 and 1999 Peter also held the following academic positions:

1) Member, Vice Chancellor's research sub-committee in the Faculty of Medicine;

2) Coordinator, University of Alberta-CUSS (University of Yaoundé) Projects

3) Technology Officer, Clinical Epidemiology Unit, FMBS, University of Yaoundé;

4) Vice-Dean, Research; Faculty of Medicine, University of Yaoundé 1.


In 1999, his hard work, assiduity and commitment to academics was rewarded with his appointment as Dean, Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Yaoundé 1, a position he held till 2006, when he was relocated to open the medical faculty at the University of Buea, where he was also the Dean until 2011 when he left and joined the World Health Organization in Brazzaville, Congo.


He was also Coordinator of the Social Policy Research Network in West and Central Africa, Cameroon Coordination Office.


Professor Peter Martins Ndumbe also served as Vice Chair of the Scientific Council of the Chantal Biya International Reference Centre for Research on Prevention and Management of HIV/AIDS (CIRCB) in Yaoundé from 2006 to 2012. In this capacity, he rigourously reviewed research projects and ensured that they were implemented under acceptable international scientific norms. Even while convalescing, he could still give a listening ear and make intelligent comments and jokes at meetings. Peter will be remembered in the health research community for his stewardship, especialy in the Chantal Biya International Reference Centre for Research on Prevention and Management of HIV/AIDS, and the unfinished business in Immunology and Public Health, which he promoted - better health for all Cameroonians.


It is important to note that Peter Ndumbe did not become the accomplished academic and researcher he was on his own steam alone. Like all of us in this world, he benefitted from the help, support and guidance of others, directly or indirectly.  Peter benefitted, like he did in secondary school, from the mentoring of professors and professionals in his field. In this regard, mention must be made of eminent academics and professors like Professor Gotlieb Monekosso, the first Dean of the Center for Health Sciences (CUSS) of the University of Yaounde, and, especially, Professor Jacob Ngu, of blessed memory, Former Vice Chancellor of the University of Yaounde, who facilitated and enabled Peter’s study at the University of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine where he obtained his PhD degree in Immunology.  Professor Sosso, former Dean of CUSS and now Rector of the University of Yaounde 1, was also a close friend and facilitator. All these people and other Senior colleagues like Dr. Joseph Mbella Awandak Nkwanyuo, and others, who saw promise in this young medical student and practitioner consciously and caringly, helped to steer him, in one way or another, in the direction he took and in which he eventually grew and blossomed.


Until his passing, he held the following international memberships or positions in professional and academic bodies:

1) Member of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee of the UNICEF/UNDP/WORLD BANK/WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) since 2003, and Chair since 2005     

2) Chair of the Advisory Committee, IVAC of the Initiative for Vaccine Research (IVR-VPD) of WHO Geneva since 2007

3) Member of the HPV and Measles Working Groups of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts of WHO Geneva since 2006

4) Chairman of the Task Force on Immunization for the African Region since 2004

5) Chairman of the Technical and Advisory Group on Measles for the Africa Region since 2005

6) Member of the Global Steering Committee on Measles since 2005.

7) Member of the Ad Hoc Committee on polio eradication since 2004.

8) Member of the Academic Consortium on the Collaborative Group on Maximizing Positive Synergies of WHO, Geneva.

9) Co-Chair of the African Health Initiative (AHI) Scientific Committee of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, New York

10) Member of the Institute of Medicine of the US National Academies’ “Committee on Envisioning a Strategy to prepare for the long-term burden of HIV/AIDS: African needs and US Interests”, 2009-2010.


 In addition to the above, he held memberships in 15 other professional and academic societies in Cameroon, the United Kingdom, the United States and France.


His publications list would be the envy of any university don seeking a claim at scholarship.  It includes three theses, eighty-six original articles, which he authored or co-authored, eleven monographs and contributions to two books.


During his career, he obtained 13 grants and awards from diverse international organizations ranging from the World Health Organization to the Canadian International Development Agency and the European Union.


He also performed 15 national and international consultancies for the WHO, GTZ, CVI (the Children's Vaccine Initiative), UNICEF, UNDP, amongst others.


He attended additional educational programmes at the following institutions/countries:


1990: McGill AIDS Center, University of McGill, Montreal : Virus isolation techniques.


1990: INCLEN training in Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Toronto, Wellesley Hospital (Dr Claire Bombadier), The management of HIV/AIDS at the Toronto General Hospital.


1991: Design implementation and evaluation of programmes to reduce the risk of HIV infections, Jerusalem, Israel, 1991. The course had a strong bias towards the use of anthropological and sociological methods in the control of disease.


2002: Fulbright New Century Scholar, based in the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. The scholars looked at “Health in a borderless world”. He studied youths and their access to reproductive health services in Cameroon.”


At his passing, this indefatigable son of Ofrikpabi and Kurume had the following EIGHT RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMMES pending on his desk file to be conducted through


THE CENTRE FOR THE STUDY AND CONTROL OF COMMUNICABLE DISEASES, CSCCD, (incorporating the Virus Immunology Unit), created in 1993 and of which he was the head. 


Proposed areas of the center’s research include:









8. OTHER RESEARCH interests, which involved studies to standardize malaria treatment in Cameroon, e-learning and the development of a Minimum District Health Package and the testing the field relevance of the center's laboratory based activities.


Although he never really took courses in management, Peter had, over the years, become a veteran manager of projects and international cooperation activities.  His writing skills had also evolved from the purely professional scientific writing he was trained to do, to writing for the layman as well.  His monographs attest to this.  Therefore, many of us, not trained in the sciences would be able to benefit from his many publications written for the lay person.


As one can see, Peter's life was a kaleidoscope of activities in research and academics. One would wonder how a mere mortal would be able to keep up with such a grueling, hectic life of work!  He was driven by the intensity of his passion and love for his research and academics.  His ability to multi-task was legendary. 

Many of the positions he held were held concurrently with others, which were just as demanding in time and complexity.  But, somehow, he was able to perform his myriad duties and tasks with incredible timeliness and accuracy, without compromising the quality of his output.   


But Peter's life was not only about work!  He had his fun side, too.  And, those who knew him, really knew him, from childhood days, would attest to the fact that he played just as hard as he worked. He was one of the greatest dancers of his generation. He was blessed with so much energy, he could party and dance away all night at home parties or in the glitzy clubs of London, Yaoundé, Paris, Limbe, Washington, DC, Douala or Geneva.



He loved music. During his secondary school days when tea-time parties were the standard form of recreation for teenagers during vacation, Peter attended all the shows put up by famous high school pop groups of the 60's like "The Lights", "The Troggs", "The Procol Harums", of CPC Bali, “The Flames” of Sacred Heart College, “The Monkeys” of PSS Kumba, and others.  He enjoyed travel.


He loved church. He had even become a lay preacher and delivered several church readings and sermons in Limbe, Yaoundé and elsewhere. He was a staunch member of the Presbyterian Church in Bastos, Yaoundé where he spent most of his career life, even serving a term as an Elder in that Congregation. 


His closeness to the late Rev. Dr. Bame Bame who pastored the Bastos Church, generated in him the desire and love for the preaching of the Word, which he did with fervour and caring.



Until his passing, Peter was a fervent Christian of the Presbyterian Church, Bota Middlefarms since 1960. When he returned to Limbe in 2006, he was instrumental in the development of the congregation spiritually, materially and financially. He was chairman of the Harvest thanksgiving committee in 2007 and 2008, co-opted member and resource person of this same committee in 2009 and 2010, patron to many church groups, assisted the needy, and contributed substantially to the building of the church house. Most significantly, he was the person who came up with the idea of building a befitting manse for the pastor. He conceived the plan and started the construction single-handedly in November 2009 before the congregation joined in. He invested his money and time to see that this dream comes to reality. He was the project coordinator of the building of this Manse until his death. It is also worth noting that this manse stands out, so far, as the best in the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon. He was a communicant and dedicated member of the Christian Men's Fellowship (CMF). The PCC as a whole and, particularly, PCC Bota, Middlefarms has lost a dedicated and devout servant of God.





Peter was also a committed BOBAN (Bali Old Boys Association) member who nursed a strong nostalgia of his alma mater, CPC Bali. In this regard he hosted many BOBAN Yaoundé Chapter meetings, especially during the difficult times the Chapter went through. He used his personal funds to host Chapter meetings at his home and gave generously of his time and hospitality.


He made friends easily and was able to find time, despite his seemingly crazy work and travel schedules, to attend funeral events, wake-keepings, weddings and other social events around the country.  His most recent attendance at a funeral was that of his close friend in Limbe and Bali in February, 2013.  He had flown in from Brazzaville and was seen carefully and lovingly attending to the friend’s family in Limbe.  His attachment and loyalty to his friends was well known and could be seen in the time he took to attend to those in mourning, illness and celebrations.


We will not go into the events that led Peter into relinquishing his much-cherished position as Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of Buea and the many projects he had lined up to pursue at that institution.  Suffice to note, however, that before leaving the University and the teaching profession and taking up his last professional assignment with the World Health Organization in Brazzaville, Peter was Professor of Virus Immunology and Public Health at the Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, (FMBS) University of Yaoundé I since 1997 and Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of Buea since 2006.  He was also the 2nd Vice President of the Cameroon Academy of Sciences since 2005 and the Director of the Centre for the Study and Control of Communicable Diseases, FMBS, University of Yaounde I since 1993.


Probably the most memorable (and most recent) professional position he held since May 2011 till his passing on May 14, 2013, was that of Programme Manager for Research, Publications and Library Services, at the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa in Congo Brazzaville.  As one would not fail to note, the wheel of fate, or fortune, had turned fully on its course and, Peter, the consummate academic and researcher had unmistakably, wittingly or unwittingly, gone back to his humble career beginnings from which he set forth, in his tender and innocent, teenage days at CPC Bali, as a Library Assistant to Library Master, Reverend Gilbert G. Gordon, his secondary school mentor.


Peter Martins Ndumbe, Simon Templar, The Saint, Pedro, may your kind, gentle, principled, restless, soul finally find the deserved rest and solace of a Spartan warrior. Rest in God's bosom and alongside your ancestors; battle weary but satisfied, accomplished and glorified in your conquest of the academic world!


He leaves behind his aging father and mother, younger brother and sister, two children, nieces and nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles, close companion and friends, colleagues and students, to mourn him.







                        With Love from US all, your family, friends and well-wishers!


Script by: Ikomi Ngongi-Jones – friend & brother.

Buea, Thursday, May 23, 2013.