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A Balancing Act: HT Graduate Stretches Beyond Norms


ATLANTA, GA — In his third year of medical school and his first year of pursuing his MBA, Sikhongi Solomon Phungwayo continues to build upon his success achieved at Huston-Tillotson University as a 4.0 biology-chemistry graduate. Also, at Huston-Tillotson, he was a recipient of the Anthony and Louise Vaier Academic Scholarship. Solomon, as he is fondly known, is on the path to a medical career in anesthesiology, surgery, or cardiology.

Currently, Solomon is in his clinical rotation at Emory System’s DeKalb’s hospital campus.  He spent his first two years of medical school in the Caribbean at St. George’s University School of Medicine.  Following the rotation, medical residency, and medical license exams, Solomon will then be Dr. Phungwayo.  He likes the way that sounds.

But Solomon is not on this career path for himself; actually, he wants to return home and open a nonprofit hospital.  Solomon is a native of Soweto, South Africa.  There, the unemployment rate is 26 percent.

“It is my belief that everybody, even those in lower-to-middle class communities like mine, deserves adequate health care, despite their socioeconomic status,” he said.  “But it is my conviction that dignity in healthcare is not contingent upon status or the financial wherewithal. This is a global issue. We can improve health outcomes in communities even just through treating our people like actual human beings and not just numbers that occupy the huge number of beds that certain regional hospitals boast about. I am passionate about this because I’ve had family members admitted to the aforementioned hospitals and have seen, first-hand, how subpar the conditions there can be. My advocacy is for people who cannot afford to go to private hospitals.”

Solomon also advocates for thorough re-training and recruitment of more healthcare workers to meet the demands of government hospitals.

“If I can contribute to this proposed change somewhat, I feel that I will have fulfilled my calling to this profession of which it is a privilege and blessing to be a part of.”

Medical school commonly is known to be tough.  But the toughness does not stand in Solomon’s way.  As he is pursuing a medical degree, he is also pursuing an MBA from Texas A&M University through its online program.  By the way, this will be his second master’s degree.

In 2015, Solomon earned a master’s in chemistry from Texas State University, following his graduation from Huston-Tillotson University in 2012 with a bachelor’s in biology and chemistry.

While a student at Huston-Tillotson, Solomon held several research assistant positions at the University of Texas at Austin in the computer science department and a nuclear engineering laboratory.  He extends his research assistant experience today with such position at PACT Atlanta, LLC, where preliminarily, his research involves exploring the use of a common anesthetic and deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS) for treatment-resistant depression.

Now, based on his 4.0 GPA, it is no secret that Solomon focused on his academics while a student at Huston-Tillotson. But he took some time to have fun and meet his wife, Selamawit Yohannes, who also graduated from Huston-Tillotson.

“I had a well-rounded college experience at HT. I had a lot of fun being a part of organizations like the International Students’ Organization (ISA), Beta Kappa Chi, National Institute of Sciences (NIS), the Delta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and Religious Life.”

He also was able to do a lot of community service through those organizations as both a member and holding office. He also met a lot of his lifelong friends through his service.  Another fond memory included his fraternity’s Phright Night for Halloween, which he said was a good break from studying.  Solomon credits his four years living on campus to helping him break out of his shell.

Solomon loves Huston-Tillotson.

“I was not a number,” he said. Solomon’s name was on many lists of opportunities.  Solomon said that he knows a lot of fellow alumni uses the same phrase about receiving many opportunities, but for him, “an overwhelming majority of my accolades and achievements were because HT cared about me and helped cultivate my talents thorough exposing me to research such as the UT’s Nuclear Engineering Teaching Laboratory and presenting my work at national conferences.”

Solomon thinks back to first coming to the United States.

“I didn’t have much, let alone the means to finance my undergraduate degree. But I was blessed to graduate with no loans and a lengthy resume…all because of HT.”

He credits his success to mentors and giants.

“Having great mentors and giants in their respective fields such as Dr. Larry Earvin, Dr. Steven Edmond, Dr. Kathy Schwab, Mr. Keddy-Hector, Dr. James Kraft, Dr. Brad Rowland, and Dr. James Brown, certainly helped me tap into the caliber of scholar I never even thought I was. The education I received from HT was superior, and that showed in how I was able to thrive post-graduation. This is why I love my HBCU.”