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My Unforgettable Internship Experience in Zuellig Pharma Brunei

27 Apr 2022

Back in high school, I had a driving passion in chemistry, and it only grew stronger as I progressed through pre-university. Moreover, I am interested to learn about medicine, particularly on how it is made. Realising my interest, I narrowed my path in choosing a course which is heavily related to chemistry and medicine. I came across International Medical University (IMU) during Malaysia Expo Day in Brunei, and the consultant recommended the Pharmaceutical Chemistry programme to me. Reading the brochure piqued my interest and curiosity, as I find the modules provided to be extremely intriguing. As of nearly three years later, I have no regrets in taking this course. There were a lot of memories made in IMU but two of them stood out as the highlights of my time there. Firstly, is the people I have met here, including my classmates and lecturers. During the Recovery Movement Control Order period, students were allowed to return to campus for practical sessions as long as they took the essential safety procedures. As I had gone back to Brunei and am required to undergo quarantine in both countries, I had missed some of the practical classes. I am fortunate that my friends and lecturers kept in touch with me to make up for the missed practical sessions and ensured my learning is continued although I was not able to attend these physical sessions. Indeed, it was unfortunate that COVID-19 hit during the peak of my university days. Academically, it wasn’t easy, but because to my friends’ unwavering support, I am glad to say that we made it this far.

Zin Chee (third from right)  during IPL Day in 2019 as on of the students of the 2019 cohorts who represented the Pharmaceutical Chemistry course. 

Secondly was joining the Pharmaceutical Chemistry (PC) Week for three consecutive years. Back in 2019, as a new student, I had the chance to join IMU’s first ever PC Week which was celebrated in conjunction with the International Year of Periodic Table. During this PC Week, I had a great experience as a student helper where we built the largest 3D periodic table from recycled materials and this achievement made it to the Malaysian Book of Records. For my third year joining the PC Week, I was honoured to hold the position as the Student Chair. This platform showed me the value of teamwork and trust as the event would not be a success without the constant support from my teammates and lecturers.

About Zuellig Pharma
Zuellig Pharma is one of Asia’s largest healthcare services companies, with the mission of making healthcare more accessible. In Zuellig Pharma Brunei (ZPBN), they operate on warehousing and distribution services of pharmaceutical and healthcare products including order entry, tender management, sales, and marketing.

My Internship (8 November 2021 – 11 March 2022)

During my internship, I observed that quality assurance constantly ensured imported drugs were registered in Brunei. The concept of registered pharmaceuticals and types of products that require the approval of the Drug Control Authority (DCA) were taught in the Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry modules in Semester Three. Even though the registered medications were taught in accordance with the Malaysian regulations, there are some parallels with Brunei’s. Furthermore, I was trained on Good Storage and Distribution Practices (GSDP) and Good Documentation Practices (GDP) since Zuellig Pharma is heavily involved in product distribution. This additional knowledge gained throughout the internship allowed me to gain better insight in the pharmaceutical industry in addition to the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) that were taught in Pharmaceutics 4 of Semester 5. GMP is not adopted in Zuellig Pharma because they do not manufacture any products.

My supervisor, Peng Jia Hui, (on the left in the photo) had been mentoring teaching me about Zuellig’s quality management and operation for the past four months. I am eternally grateful to her for what she taught me, and I will pass it on as I advance.

Lastly, certifications such as ISO 9001 standard and validation were taught in the Pharmaceutical Analysis 3 module of Semester 5 with regards to the study and understanding of the laboratory qualities and standards. Similarly, Zuellig Pharma is ISO 9001 certified in order to meet the international quality management system standards. Furthermore, validation is carried out on transports and equipment to guarantee that temperature-controlled products are delivered in a proper temperature condition. Lesson Learnt during Internship Working closely with and liaising with other departments, I get along well with my colleagues and use my interpersonal skills to develop good work relationships. This allows me to improve my people skills by rapidly establishing a solid connection with my supervisor, foster workplace trust, and provide me with the confidence to perform better in my work. Also, establishing effective communication with my supervisor, especially when seeking assistance or clarification, is preferable than pretending to understand what you have been asked to do. In terms of technical proficiency, I improved my Microsoft Office skills and learnt the Zuellig Quality electronic system.

Challenges met
I recall being completely overwhelmed when work began because I was unprepared for the volume of documents handled by the Quality Department. There will always be a document involved with each step and procedure, and there have been times when I couldn’t remember which document was which and had to ask repeatedly or check the SOP. I wasn’t able to recall the procedures as quickly as I wanted. I also remembered asking my supervisor whether I could read or finish my E-modules at home in order to catch up on work. However, I was advised that it’s not necessary to bring my work back home as boundaries are set for a time to work and a time off work. As time went on, I gradually gained a deeper understanding of each technique, step, and document. It improves with time, along with keeping a personal journal of my day, the lessons I’ve learned, and meeting schedules. Writing a journal allows me to reflect on my tasks and responsibilities while also assisting me in staying on track.

Inspirational moment in my internship that motivates me: By becoming familiar with Zuellig Pharma’s working culture and forging strong connections with my colleagues and supervisor, I am confident that this group of people is dedicated to achieving Zuellig’s goals. Observing everyone’s work ethics makes me want to be a part of it, which inspires me to achieve excellence. Furthermore, they place so much importance on self-improvement because there is always potential for improvements. As a result of my self-reflection, I am able to grow professionally and personally by identifying my strengths and limitations.

Advice for Juniors:
When I first started taking the Pharmaceutical Chemistry course, I assumed I’d end up working in a lab. Choosing a non-lab internship, on the other hand, provided me with insight into office work culture as well as the need of regulating and maintaining product quality before it enters the market. Allowing yourself to be exposed to different types of employment may assist you to widen your career options. It is also important to conduct a background check on the company where you would like to intern. Once you are accepted by the company, be proactive, enthusiastic, and curious to learn and ask pertinent questions which provides the opportunity to learn new things. Also, establish strong connection and networking with your colleagues as peer learning is very important.

Plans for the future Right now, my objectives are to find an employment as a chemist to improve my laboratory experience after graduation soon, as well as to continue my postgraduate study in a profession that I am interested in, which is in the toxicology field. Written by Lee Zin Chee Related article: The Elements Revealed: IMU Built Largest 3D Periodic Table From Recycled Materials

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