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Memories Tribute December 23, 2018
John Nkengasong Rest in Peace Prof. Peter Ndumbe July 7, 2013

Lord, there’s a stranger at the door, let your son, Peter-Martins Ndumbe in!

The beginning  - Prof Peter-Martins Ndumbe, you have taken the oxygen out of my life and the ground beneath my feet is shaken. I first met Prof Ndumbe in 1987 at the University Centre for Health Sciences, CUSS, in Yaoundé.  He had returned from the United Kingdom (UK) in 1985 and had worked in CUSS for 2-years. As a young graduate from the Faculty of Sciences, University of Yaoundé in 1987, I was hunting for a job. A friend intimated that Prof Ndumbe was searching for a research assistant to be part of a Hepatitis B project he had obtained funding from the Leverhulme Trust, a UK-based Organization. This was a grant aimed at providing career development opportunities for those who were at a relatively early stage of their academic careers, but with a proven record of research. My encounter with him was engaging, intense, and exciting. Although he didn’t promise me the job at the end of our discussion, I left his office feeling very enchanted because of the cautious and respectful manner he received me. His professionalism and brilliance immediately stroke me. He subsequently offered me the job and I was one of the two research assistants working with him on the Hepatitis B project. He rearranged his office and created a little corner for me to establish my desk. At the other corner of his office was a – 80 Degree Celsius deep freezer that served for sample storage, when closed. Because we had no laboratory on our own, we used the lid of the deep freezer when it closed as our bench to test the biologic samples we had collected for the Hepatitis project.  As our research portfolio developed, Prof Pierre Carteret, the dean of CUSS at that time, apportioned an abandoned toilet next to Prof Daniel Lantum’s office for us to renovate and use as a laboratory – Prof Ndumbe renovated the space and named it the Virus Immunology Laboratory. We used the lab to conduct and published several studies on Hepatitis B and C infections in different populations in Cameroon, and subsequently carried out some very pioneering studies on HIV infection in Cameroon. He was quick at recognizing talents  - in 1989; Prof Ndumbe secured a scholarship for me to study for a Master’s degree in Biomedical Sciences at the Department of Microbiology, Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium.  As I left for Belgium, his extraordinary quality thinking, rigor, brilliance, and attention to details had impacted me. In 1992, we had our first son and to honor the incredible impact Prof Ndumbe has had on me, my wife and I named him Pete-Martin. 

The middle  - Prof Ndumbe and I continued to stay in touch and fostered research collaborations and published several papers on HIV and Hepatitis.  We met at numerous scientific meetings in Asia, Europe, Africa, and North America.  At these meetings, conferences and symposia, one could not miss his brilliance, clarity of thoughts, and quality of expression – he was very eloquent. In deed, he was truly respected among his peers, internationally, as he chaired several committees at the World Health Organization and other prestigious institutions including being part of the United States Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Those who knew him well will agree that Prof Ndumbe was a “big thinker” he dreamt of an Africa reawakening in medicine and medical research; was a great mentor; believed in developing human capacity; and most importantly he had a gigantic vision for the University of Buea Medical School. He showed me, and I believe many others, a master blueprint he and others had designed for the University of Buea Medical School. He carried it with him in his lab top and didn’t hesitate to show anyone at a hotel lobby, conference room, --etc. Driven by his passion to see through this exiting project, he shared the blueprint with me several times without knowing that he had shown me before.


The end – About 3 years ago, Prof Ndumbe and I met at the Airport in Paris. I spotted him first in the lounge, from a distance, and saw something in him that troubled me – he was frailer and had lose so much weigh. He was travelling to Washington D.C and I was heading to Atlanta, GA. We chatted briefly and I promised to travel to Washington DC to catch up with him, of which I did. We spent the whole evening together and had dinner at a restaurant across from the World Bank complex.  He told me what had happened with his health but was positive of the recovering process. That evening, we discussed several issues including priority health care systems research in Africa and explored potential areas of collaboration. Since then we remained in regular contact by phone and e-mail. In April this year, I was sad to learn that he had taken ill in Brazzaville and was evacuated to South Africa for treatment. On April 23rd I went to the Springfield Hospital in Johannesburg to visit him; however, on arrival he had been discharged a few hours earlier and sent to a rehabilitation center in Pretoria. I took the contacts of the center and went to Pretoria to see him. We were both happy to see each other and he narrated what had happened to him.  I was very fortunate to spent about 2 hours with him and we discussed several health and professional-related issues. Most importantly, he was as engaging as always, and so gave me plenty of hope. It was truly a moment of joy as we later walked downstairs to the lobby and sat down for a cup of coffee while waiting for my ride to the airport.  Before we parted, he reassured me that all was going to be well – I was very encouraged and felt really good that he was lot better than I thought.

On May 14th I heard the sad news that the Almighty had called him. Prof Ndumbe loved excellence. Now, he has completed, with excellence, his earthly assignments and pass from this life. I believe that he is waiting for us, and will greet us with that big smile, and his usual enthusiasm to show us all around his magnificent excellent new heavenly home where he will witness no more pains.

Shakespeare had Horatio to say some beautiful words as he stood over the dead body of Hamlet. And today, as we stand over the remains of Prof Ndumbe, this beautiful, darling of God, I paraphrase the words of Shakespeare: Good night sweet prince of goodwill. Good night, the one who has symbolized hope and strength for medicine in Africa, Good-bye our hero.  And may the flight of angels take you to thy eternal rest.

Prof Ndumbe, thank you sincerely for all you did to mentor others and me!



I met your brother almost a decade ago, and over the years, have had the privilege of being in many meetings and discussions with him.
He was an outstanding academic, as you well know, but also an insightful leader of health in Africa. His comments were always welcomed, he used few words most of the time, but often managed to make the most useful contributions through his succinct contributions.
I always enjoyed a hug from this huge teddy-bear of a man when we met, in different parts of the world, and the last time I saw him, at a vaccine conference in Cape Town, got him onto the dance floor with very little encouragement - and I remember how he out-danced all of us, even the very young ones.
A giant global leader in health has fallen, and I am privileged to have known Peter Ndumbe, and to have walked just a short part of his life's path with him.
M personal condolences to you and the rest of Peter's family
Emeritus Professor Marian Jacobs
Former Dean of Health Sciences: University of Cape Town
Alice Martin-Daihirou Time To Say Goodbye July 4, 2013

PMN, Doc, Prof,

As the curtains draw to a close and your bereaved family and friends meticulously plan and lead you gently to your final resting place, we will continue to reflect on your life, the bits and pieces we can put together - family  man, friendships, academic achievements, mentor, guardian, etc. and marvel at the gentleman with so many names and titles, each portraying the unique role you played in the lives of so many people during different stages in your life.

"Once a friend, always a friend"  It was all so natural for you. You stayed in touch with your "special" friends and their families. Far and near you always reserved a kind thought or shared a good laugh as the situation permitted. Just three months to your passing we briefly exchanged notes about the UN. My work with the WFP and your responsibilites at the WHO Regional Bureau in Brazzaville. You said you were happy and mentioned some of the things you were doing out there. Busy and travelling a lot. One evening in February I switched on the cable TV to TELESUD, a Pan-African channel and there you were on the big screen brilliantly and eloquently speaking, along with other researchers, about research activities being undertaken by the World Health Organization in Africa. Your UN colleagues miss you dearly.

That dreaded early morning phone call no one far from home wishes to receive was how I learnt about your passing in South Africa on May 14th. So untimely, but who are we to question what the Good Lord has planned. No wonder you were in such a hurry to fulfil your divine destiny. You were sensitive to God's leading at all times and followed the path that He had set before you. You lived your life with a clear sense of knowing where you were going, which direction you would take to get there and what you wanted to accomplish. You always said "be the best in whatever you decide to do". We listened and as so well penned through the many tesimonies, tributes and candles lit, one can simply conclude your doctrine paid off. Well done, Prof.  

It is now time to say goodbye. How else than with a lovely song that brings back memories of a special encounter with you while we were students in Yaounde. The beautiful hymn, "O Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness" by JSB Monseill is for the Kepe family and all of us who mourn for the late Peter Martins Ndumbe. 

Rest in eternal peace with our Lord, dear Koro
Your friend,

Prof-ooh-chai! Can’t believe I'm writing a memorial for you! “Wander-thing-full” like you would say. Where do I start? I recall those old Bota days at mondole house and house #23. I remember Mama telling us - that would be Pwote, Ewoma and Efosi (of blessed memory) and I that Mr. and Mrs. Kepe’s son will be part the Malafa family. It was a delight, I remember the brother to brother time you spent with Pwote and Ewoma and of course for us girls Efosi and myself. We just enjoyed your company; You made us laugh-Lee and Effange were young at the time.

As the years rolled by we were all leaving for other ventures in life that separated us for years, but we all kept in contact. You never forgot the family you loved and cherished, you were there for Mama and Papa-uncle Isaac Malafa and my namesake Aunty Ursula Malafa through the trials of sickness that took mama to the Lord in September of 1997 and later papa in March of 1998. How can I forget you!

In 1990 when I told you there’s a possibility I may be going to the States- you were excited for me. You again, as you normally would do, offered support for me to procure a visa. I was in Cameroon in December of 2008 - You had heard of my mom but never met her, she was visiting from Lagos with her friend Theresa and two of my brothers Esele and Andrew- You organized a beautiful dinner party for us at your Bota residence along with other family members. We shared lots of laughs, little did I know that would be the last time I would see you.

After I returned to the States – a little over a year went by, and you fell ill. We were praying for you; for quick recovery and you did recover. I remember Ewoma called me and said, "Prof is in town; he will be in Maryland." Ewoma, Jarvis, the Etule “boys” Paul and Mafua came together at the residence of Heddie and Floret Ikome along with other friends to celebrate your recovery. I wanted to be there so bad but could not make it. I was so happy to hear your voice as you always addressed me “Madam Nollan”. How you dey?And Mr. Nollan? I knew you were feeling better. We shared lots of laughs, teasing and as you normally did “threatening" me about calling Aunty Mary otherwise you will say something when you got back home!

 Then in October 2012, I called you, to let you know I will be coming home to Cameroon – you said you will be travelling also but you will be back in December. When I got home in December, I was hoping to see you, so I could give you a shirt I wanted you to wear with your “sanja” and mama Fanny said you will see it when you come back!

I remember back in early 2009- I called you to thank you for rallying your doctor colleagues to be there for Lee when she was very sick- you said, "Ah! No worries. This is what I do; No problem.” You enjoyed doing and doing for others – there is one word that describes you and why you got along so well with everyone and succeeded in everything you did- “BRILLIANT”. You treated everyone with dignity and respect.   A wonderful human being-how can I forget you!  You will be missed - love you very much, may you rest in the Lord.

Total Memories: 33
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