Ms Akhona Sikutshwa beat the odds to graduate summa cum laude.

Medical Sciences Student Graduates Summa Cum Laude after Uphill Battle

Ms Akhona Sikutshwa was awarded her Medical Sciences degree summa cum laude from the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Science.

Sikutshwa (27) worked as a retail sales assistant so she could pay for her transport costs and other expenses because she didn’t like the idea of having to ask for money from home.

‘It has been one hell of a journey! Bittersweet,’ she said. ‘My worst period was in third-year when I failed most of the modules and the duration of my degree was extended by 18 months! At times I felt like giving up but I just had to keep on going! Irrespective of the many setbacks, I am grateful for getting an education I am exceptionally proud of. I will forever be grateful to my supervisor Professor Thajasvarie Naicker for her guidance and support.’

Sikutshwa’s study titled: The Role of C-Reactive Protein (CRP) and Serum Amyloid A (SAA) in HIV-Associated Pre-Eclampsia (PE), assessed CRP and SAA levels in HIV-associated pre-eclampsia pregnancies.

Results demonstrated a significant reduction of CRP with a concomitant non-significant elevation of SAA in PE versus healthy pregnant women. Decreased CRP is suggestive of a neutralised immune response in HIV associated pre-eclampsia.

Pre-eclampsia, an obstetric disorder specific to human pregnancy remains a major cause of maternal mortality and morbidity globally. The acute phase proteins, CRP, SAA and other known markers of inflammation have been implicated in the development of pre-eclampsia. However, a dose-response relationship between PE and inflammation remains to be clarified.

Sikutshwa hails from Bizana, a rural town in the Eastern Cape. She proudly describes her mother, Ntombomzi Madizela as a phenomenal, strong and graceful woman whom she draws her strength from. Her dad Cornelius Madikiza is a strict disciplined man but sweet, mellow and supportive on the inside.

Sikutshwa is currently studying towards a second degree in Pharmacy. During her free time she enjoys doing hand-craft, drawing, sketching and sewing – all hobbies she has had since childhood.

Words: Lihle Sosibo