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Dr Youssef Omar

Dr. Youssef Omar

The pillar in medical care

History records the accomplishments of individuals committed to their cause, who through their kindness, magnanimity and genuine concern for mankind, continue to inspire us through their noble deeds. Their accomplishments and outlook towards life will always be cherished.

Dr. Youssef Omar is one such illustrious individual whose humanitarian outlook continues to inspire us.

Dr. Omar was a graduate from the School of Medicine of Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt. He started his career in the Radiology Department of his alma mater before pursuing higher studies in England. He was approached by Kuwaiti authorities to work as a Consultant to treat cancer patients at the Al Sabah Hospital.

His impact was almost immediate setting new benchmarks in oncology care. He was the first director of the Kuwait Cancer Control Center (KCCC) and played an instrumental role in expanding the original Radiotherapy Building into a state of the art comprehensive cancer center with all adequate departments. He was the first coordinator of the Cancer Control Committee for the Gulf region and Kuwait representative to various committees with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)

Dr. Omar is credited with several accomplishments and is regarded as a thought-leader in cancer care in the country. He made remarkable contributions to radiation therapy and medical oncology, which then were new to Kuwait and, indeed to the Gulf region itself. He developed new diagnostic systems with a team of specialist doctors and played a pivotal role in establishing the Kuwait Cancer Control Centre as an integrated healthcare organization offering treatment for all types of cancers.

Dr. Omar was renowned for his persistence in obtaining the full patient history, a reflection of the attention to details he placed in every aspect of his work.
He passed away in 2008 having made exceptional contributions to Kuwait's healthcare sector, especially in cancer care. He was the pioneer in recognizing the true magnitude of the problem posed by cancer in the Gulf countries.

Dr Omar also contributed to setting up the Oncology Department at the Salmaniya Medical Complex in Bahrain, which grew considerably based on his original concept.

His physical presence is missed but the legacy of his contributions will continue to inspire us. The healthcare strategy he pioneered will continue to offer solace to cancer patients and their families.


In their words...

A tribute to the late Dr. Youssef Tewfik Omar (YTO) - by his wife Dr. Azza Shaltout
To me, he was simply the center of my universe.

He arrived in Kuwait in 1965 and strived to achieve progress in the field of radiation therapy. Together with a team of exceptional surgeons, radiation oncologists, other specialist oncologists and physicists, he set to fulfill the dream of a cancer center in Kuwait. The long association he had with Dr. Nael Al Naqeeb was ever so prominent and developed into a deep friendship.

It was due to the generous offer of a devoted philanthropist, Mr. Hussein Makki Al Jumaa, a man with a vision, together with visionary officials in the Ministry of Health, notably Mr. Homoud Al-Barges; it was possible for the dream to come true. The Cancer Center was established in a record time and inaugurated in 1982 by his Highness the late Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmad Al Sabah.

Professionally, Youssef was a very serious man, who exercised great discipline in his work. However, I would say that the striking quality he had was his humanity towards his patients. The years he spent in Britain made him aware of the importance of the human care of the cancer patients and he was committed to see that they were given the best care, and that they kept their dignity at all times.

He was concerned with the quality of their life, a concept that was to become very prominent in later on but which he always taught years ago in his practice and to his students. He was always grateful to Kuwait for the care of all the patients with cancer and said this does not happen anywhere in the world where the state cared so benevolently for the medical care of its people.

His contribution was mainly in the development of the Cancer Registry, and in establishing a multidisciplinary approach to the management of cancer patients. He believed that patients in Kuwait should have the best care and thus developed the long partnership with the University of Lyon in France, a partnership that continued all through his years in Kuwait and after his departure. The Cancer Centre also achieved recognition and was designated as a WHO Referral Centre for Cancer Control and Lymphoma Research in the Middle East.

Youssef's life was deeply affected by three events:

  • The brutal invasion of Kuwait in 1990 - he was in Bahrain where he held a monthly clinic for cancer patients as an agreement between the Ministries of Health of Kuwait and Bahrain.
  • The tragic and brutal murder of his deputy director Mohammad Al-Banwa - whom he deeply respected and cherished.
  • The loss of Dr. Nael Al-Naqeeb - whom he greatly revered, was an end to a wonderful journey as they both dedicated their lives fighting a common cause. He would always be fondly remembered, and also his wife Souad.

On the personal side, Youssef was a wonderful father and husband. He was adored by his daughters and he adored them in return. He was always listening to them and counseling them and keen about every detail of their lives. He encouraged our elder daughter Rasha to pursue her career abroad. She works as project manager for IFAD, one of the UN agencies.

Our younger daughter is a bright young woman who works in marketing and advertising with one of the largest communication and advertising agencies in Egypt. He was generous and loving to his family, colleagues and friends. His infectious hearty laughter, known to everyone who knew him, was very special and uplifting, for he enjoyed life and loved to be surrounded by family and friends.

At times he would lose his temper but deep down he had a heart of gold! In his later years in Cairo, he chose to retire after a heart attack in 1995. He was an avid reader and was concerned with the politics in the region and kept abreast with all that was happening in the world. He spent his last days peacefully among his old school friends and devoted his time to his family.

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