Profesor Dato' (Dr.) Ungku Omar bin Ahmad was born in Johor Bahru on 18 January 1931. He obtained his early education at Sekolah Melayu in Kluang, Segamat Pontian, Tangkak in addition to a Religious School until Primary Six. He then furthered his studies to the Malay College Kuala Kangsar before he enrolled into Universiti Malaya in Singapore and passed with a Degree in Medicine and Surgery in 1957.
Immediately after completing his studies (after undergoing housemanship in Johor Bahru) he served as a Medical and Research Officer at the Kuala Lumpur Medical Research Centre. In 1961, he furthered his studies in London and achieved a Diploma in the field of Pathology (a medical field that research's the cause, signs and treatment of diseases) at the Royal College of Physician London and the Royal College of Surgeons England in 1962.
In the same year, he served as a Registrar at the Royal Free Hospital's Pathological Department, School of Medicine, London. Two years later (1964) he served as Senior Registrar of the same department and was accepted to become a member of the College of Pathologist in London.
The successes achieved all the while were never halted but he continued to show tenacious capabilities in 1965 when he received a Doctorate (PhD) in Clinical Chemistry successfully with his thesis titled ‘Electrolytes in Isolated Human Leucocytes'. In the same year he was accepted as a member of the Institute of Biology in London and two years later (1967) the College of American Pathologist (United States of America) accepted him as an Honorary Member of the College.
Thus his research in the academic field was complete; a Malay that possesses a high qualification in the fields of research and medicine.
The intellect of Profesor Dato' (Dr.) Ungku Omar Ahmad was apparent since his school days. During his time at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar, he became the Student Head and in 1948, he had already attended the Boy Scout jamboree in Melbourne, Australia. The same situation occurred at Universiti Malaya where he was enrolled directly into the Second Year. Due to his excellence in the subject of Anatomy (Study of the Human Structure) he was selected as the Student Demonstrator for this subject in 1954.
His intelligence is further utilised when he was appointed as the Director of the Medical Research Centre immediately after coming home in 1965. He was the first Malay to hold the office.
Under his unwavering leadership, the Centre became well known and significant to not only South-east Asian Countries, but across the globe. This holds true as all research regarding health and medicine undergone by him was printed and published by research and health journals at the national level.
In performing his duties as the Director of the Medical Research Centre, he shocked the nation with his research findings on the health levels of rural citizens that have been overlooked. The rural death rate was six times higher than in the urban areas, poverty rates closely connected to diseases such as malaria, typhoid, elephantiasis and other diseases has invoked a deep awareness in all parties. His efforts was not only appreciated by the people but also recognised internationally.
As an intellectual, Profesor Dato' (Dr.) Ungku Omar Ahmad has penned more than 40 working papers encompassing scientific works in his specialised field, presentation papers on the rural health conditions especially in the problems of eradicating malaria up to current headlines at the time such as the establishment of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, the concept of an Islamic university, the role of national youths in development and the efforts to create medical terms in Malay.
His awareness and efforts were not only portrayed through his working papers or public speeches, but he also gave talks on health and science through Radio Malaysia and due to this he was also known as Doktor Radio (Radio Doctor).
In the field of medicine, he was active and was the Chairman and Vice Chairman for health-related committees such as malaria eradication, Medical and Health Laboratory, National Blood Bank, as well as actively involved in the Alumni Medical Association, Malaysian Medical Association and the Malaysian Parasitology Association. He is also a member of the Special National Committee of the Ministry of Health, National Leprosy Disease Committee, Board Member of Hospital Medicine, Board Member of the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka Chemistry and Medicine Terminology Committee and a member of the Standards Institute of Malaysia.
In addition, he was the official member of the Universiti Malaya ‘Court', Chairman of the Islamic College Council since 1967 and was responsible in establishing the Department of Islamic Studies in Universiti Malaya as well as his recognised efforts in the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Committee of Constitutional Drafters.
Prof. Dato' (Dr.) Ungku Omar was also involved in the Literary Language and Cultural Field and was a member of ASAS 50, not to mention attending discourses held by this movement during the peak of their activities. Many of his creative articles were published in Mastika and Dewan Masyarakat magazines.
At the international level, he represented Malaysia in various conventions in Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, the United States of America, Philippines, The People's Republic of China and Singapore especially in the fields of medical research, the Regional Cooperative in Tropical Medicine Coordinating Board (SEAMES) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Due to his contributions and efforts in various fields, he was conferred the Darjah Setia Mahkota by His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in June 1967 and in October, His Royal Highness the Sultan of Johor conferred him the Darjah Kerabat Yang Amat Dihormati. He was conferred the title Professor in 1968 by Universiti Indonesia.
Prof. Dato' (Dr.) Ungku Omar Ahmad married his cousin Tengku Khatijah Sulaiman in 1952 and was blessed with six children; five girls and a boy.
In times that the nation, the people and his family still needed his leadership, he passed away on 15 February 1969 at the age of 38. From Allah do we come and to Him do we return. May Allah bless his spirit and place him among those who He loves.
Historical Narration of A Day to Remember Prof.Dato' (Dr.) Ungku Omar Ahmad'
10 November 1988
National Archives of Malaysia