Lives of the fellows

Abdul Rahim Omar

b.25 February 1939 d.7 July 2012
MB BS Singapore(1963) MRCP(1970) FRCP(1986)

Abdul Rahim Omar was a consultant physician in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He was born on the island of Penang in west Malaysia, the oldest of eight children of Omar Bin Che Long, a financial assistant, and Siti Aminah Bte Sheikh Awab, a housewife. He was educated on the island of Penang, excelled academically at the Penang Free School, the premier school in the state, and in 1958 won a government scholarship to study medicine at the University of Singapore.

In 1963 he graduated from Singapore and returned to Malaysia for his resident posts and postgraduate training, initially in his hometown Penang, and later in the state of Johor, in southern Malaysia.

His dedication and abilities as a clinician were recognised early by Malaysia’s leading physician, Lim Kee Jin, who put him forward for a government scholarship to go to London to further his training as a physician. After stints at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, University College Hospital and Middlesex Hospital, he obtained his MRCP in London in 1970.

In 1971, he was appointed as a consultant physician in medical unit one at the General Hospital in Kuala Lumpur. He rapidly earned the admiration and respect of his peers for his clinical acumen, professionalism, ethical conduct, empathy, humility, sense of fairness and justice, and commitment to teaching and training his residents and junior colleagues.

In 1972, the National University (Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia) decided to establish a faculty of medicine in Kuala Lumpur, and Rahim was invited to become one of the two foundational assistant deans. As assistant dean for academic affairs he had a gigantic task, and had only the help of a small team of colleagues. However, he managed to appoint senior local teaching staff, as well as qualified staff from overseas, found promising local medical graduates and arranged postgraduate training for them in the various specialties, and oversaw the development of a curriculum for the medical school with the assistance of visiting professors from overseas. He also had to consider the physical and technical requirements of the pre-clinical and clinical departments. These responsibilities required him to travel extensively to various parts of the world.

He accomplished these tasks in collaboration with many colleagues with intense diligence and minimum fuss, and always gave recognition and credit to all those who assisted him to complete this phenomenal task. The vision of Rahim and his colleagues, and their sterling work, has resulted in a medical institution which continues to train many of the leading specialists in the country today. This has resulted in a substantial lifting of standards of teaching and clinical practice in Malaysia.

When his organisational task with the National University was completed, he returned to clinical practice as a physician, initially at the General Hospital in Kuala Lumpur, and subsequently in the private sector. He continued his commitment to improving standards of training through his membership of various committees at the Malaysian Medical Association and the Academy of Medicine of Malaysia. He also maintained his teaching of medical students on a part-time basis. In 1986, in recognition of his contribution to medical services in Malaysia, he was elected as a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians.

Rahim had a great interest in literature, and was widely read and informed. He had an intense interest in football, tennis, films and photography, and had a great enthusiasm for travel. He is particularly remembered by his friends as having a great sense of humour and a trademark laugh. Throughout his life he made every effort to keep up with his longstanding friends.

Besides being a role model to his profession, Rahim was a devoted and doting husband, father and, latterly, grandfather. In August 1964 he married Zubaidah Bte Abdul Majid, with whom he spent 48 wonderful years. Zubaidah became one of Malaysia’s leading paediatric dentists with an academic chair and subsequently became dean of the dental faculty of the University of Malaya. They had a daughter, Shahnaz, a general practitioner, and two sons, Imran and Hisham, both chartered accountants. He had one grandson, Johan Nazri Lim, born in May 2009; another grandson, Hanif Ming-Hui Imran, was born two months after Rahim died.

A wonderful, kind and generous human being, Rahim was a devout Muslim and led an exemplary life.

Arunasalam Ambikapathy

(Volume XII, page web)

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