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Contact & Staff
University Scholars Program
2005 - 2006 Scholar
Mentor: Jennifer Elder
College of Nursing
For Meghan Bullard, nursing is a family affair. Her mother, Cheryl, has had a long and
successful career as a cardiac nurse and recently switched to progressive care. This kind
of flexibility within the field, as well as the booming job market for nurses in Florida,
played a large part in Meghan deciding to follow in her mother's footsteps. "There are a
lot of possibilities," she says. "If I get tired of one area I can change to another."
The 21-year-old nursing senior from Apopka, Florida decided to become a nurse in eighth
grade and participated in a medical magnet program through her high school. Since
coming to UF in 2003, Meghan has established herself as one of the top students in the
College of Nursing-not only maintaining a near-perfect 3.9 GPA, but also taking on a
leadership role as president of the UF Nursing Student Association.
Meghan's interest in pediatrics led to her becoming a research assistant in Associate
Professor of Nursing Jennifer Elder's autism lab. As a University Scholar, Meghan
analyzed the ways in which autistic children and their parents interact through play.
"Through play, normally developing children learn a variety of skills that are fundamental
to development, thus it is important to identify the characteristics children with autism
exhibit in play in order to formulate strategies and interventions to further such skills,"
she states in her University Scholars paper published in the July-August issue of the
"Journal of Undergraduate Research."
Analyzing a sample of 24 families who participated in a previous study by Elders funded
by the National Institutes of Health, Meghan coded the parent-child interactions observed
in 129 play sessions videotaped by the lab. One of her major findings was that autistic
children appear to rarely participate in pretend play. "Only one child in my study engaged
in pretend play and it wasn't very pronounced," she says. "Uncovering ways to encourage
and promote pretend play in children with autism is yet another question that warrants
Meghan and Elder presented a poster in June at the International Meeting for Autism
Research, held in Montreal. Meghan also presented a poster at the Fourth Annual College
of Nursing Research Day in March, where she was awarded the Health Care Environment
and Systems Undergraduate Poster Award. She was recently named a recipient of the
Lois Malasanos Research Scholarship in her college. Meghan continues to work as a
research assistant in her mentor's lab and is planning to graduate in May 2007. She
wants to become a pediatric nurse. "I want to work for a couple of years in a pediatric
intensive care unit and then go back to graduate school to become a pediatric nurse
practitioner, training parents with the special care needs of their children."
Back to the Journal of Undergraduate Research
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ï¿½ University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611; (352) 846-2032. FLORIDA
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