PACE internship: Arsène’s enriching experience

My name is Arsène Gautler Dombou Zeufack. I’m a graduate of the Pharmalys Academy of Clinical research Excellence (PACE), and I also hold a Masters’ degree in Public Health and Epidemiology. It was during my master’s studies that I first discovered the world of clinical research. I was so drawn to this career path that I decided to undertake a training course to become a clinical research professional.

I began browsing different websites, searching for a comprehensive curriculum that would prepare me well for this career. What stood out to me most about the PACE course was its well-structured programme. It included a 3-month live online academic component, totalling around 300 hours of teaching – similar to the workload of a Masters’ degree. This part of the course incorporated practical skills training through real-world case studies and interactive simulations.

In addition to the academic component, the PACE programme offered a 6-month internship with an organisation involved in conducting and managing clinical trials. Throughout the entire 9-month experience, each student is assigned a dedicated mentor who provides continuous support, addressing questions, concerns, and offering guidance whenever necessary. This combination of academic learning, hands-on experience, and mentorship was exactly what I needed to confidently step into the field of clinical research.

My Internship Experience on the PACE Programme

My internship experience has been both enriching and challenging. I was contracted by the Principal Investigator of the OPT-SMC Cameroon project as the Coordinator for implementing the project, working closely with the Regional Technical Group for Malaria Control in the Far North region of Cameroon. This group is the regional representative of the National Malaria Control Programme (GTR-LP EN). During my internship, I worked on trials analysing a preventive drug against malaria in children. This role provided me with invaluable hands-on experience in the field of clinical research and an opportunity to contribute to a significant public health initiative.

Responsibilities Within the Project

My responsibilities as coordinator of the project were multifaceted and crucial for the successful implementation of various studies within the programme. I focused on coordinating within the community, managing human resources, processing and analysing collected data, preparing reports for both internal decision-making and external audits, and presenting findings at progress review meetings with other stakeholders.

Here’s a closer look at my daily responsibilities:

  1. Coordinating field activities such as training community interviewers and developing cohorts of children to be monitored during the seasonal malaria prevention campaign.
  2. Ensuring the quality and completeness of data collected. This included recruiting, training, and deploying data collectors, monitoring the progress and completeness of the data, and reporting trends to the Principal Investigator.
  3. Managing expenditures and documentation. I managed certain project expenditures, ensured timely submission of supporting documents, compiled statistical and activity/financial reports, and participated in drafting manuscripts and the general project report.

This role allowed me to gain hands-on experience in coordinating large-scale public health initiatives and deepened my understanding of the complexities involved in managing clinical research projects.

On-site Experiences & Internship Supervision

During my internship, I frequently travelled to deliver essential equipment and materials that were required for the implementation of the project, such as interviewers’ tablets, blood sampling kits, and malaria diagnostic and microscopic kits, to various sites in Maroua and Kaélé. I also facilitated training and supervision for the interviewers on-site.

When I arrived in Maroua (the capital of Cameroon’s Far North region), the Coordinator of the GTR-LP EN welcomed me. He briefed me on the progress and challenges of the malaria control programme, emphasising the importance of the studies in identifying gaps and necessary changes to ensure the programme’s effectiveness.

Throughout my internship, I received invaluable support from the project’s Principal Investigator, who also supervised my memoir. He provided continuous guidance, monitored my progress, and approved necessary adjustments to ensure the project’s success. This unwavering support was instrumental in my professional growth and understanding of the field.

A Rewarding Experience

My internship experience was a blend of both accomplishments and challenges that significantly contributed to my growth. For the first time, I developed an electronic questionnaire with complex prioritisation systems. I also had the opportunity to plan and organise various training courses for survey interviewers and manage multiple teams, which was particularly rewarding.

Preparing external supervisors’ audits was a particularly demanding aspect of the project. These meetings required detailed updates on project progress, challenges encountered, and team errors. This process was crucial in helping me grow professionally as a clinical research professional.

At one point, I was offered an extension of my contract to take on additional responsibilities related to the planning and implementation of the qualitative study. Not only was this a first, this was also a daunting task for me, but I chose to embrace the challenge. With the advice and support of my internship supervisor, I successfully navigated this new responsibility and for this I am proud of my achievements.

Meeting a diverse group of professionals at the office and on sites, including nurses, community health workers, site supervisors, external supervisors from the Ministry of Public Health, and project sponsors, was another highlight of my internship. The professional and cultural diversity motivated me to learn some of the local languages, share experiences from similar projects, and expand my network. Effective communication and flexibility were essential tools that enabled me to guide the development of different teams with confidence and serenity.


My time with this team was filled with valuable experiences and emotions. If there’s one lesson I’ve learned, it’s that integrity and a strong sense of responsibility are paramount in a professional environment.

Seeing the project components I was responsible for through to completion within the allotted time was a significant achievement and an honour. This journey was made particularly memorable by the guidance and support I received from my internship supervisor, who helped me build self-confidence, develop leadership qualities, and take on more responsibilities than I ever imagined. Connecting with and learning from my other team members was also a very rewarding experience.

As this internship has now been completed, I feel satisfied with my personal and professional growth and am eager for the next adventure.



Masters’ degree in Public Health and Epidemiology, PACE graduate

May 2024