Caring for others is ingrained in nursing doctoral student Michelle Tall ’17MSN. “Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, from a family of immigrants, the art of caring was a way of life,” says Tall. It’s what led Tall into the field of nursing nearly 30 years ago. “It was a calling that occurred naturally.”

The married mother of six and former ER nurse is a community advocate for epilepsy awareness, education and care, and was recently awarded a 2018 McKnight Doctoral Fellowship. Tall is one of only two nursing fellows and 49 doctoral students selected from more than 500 applicants nationwide to earn a scholarship through the prestigious program, which seeks to increase the diversity of faculty with PhD degrees at colleges and universities in Florida.

“I am honored to receive this fellowship, which will allow me to attend school full-time and chase my dreams,” says Tall. Those dreams are to make a greater impact for the future of those diagnosed with epilepsy through her research and to contribute to the future of nursing through teaching.

Tall’s journey from an ER nurse to epilepsy advocate has been a personal one. Her son Josh has a rare type of epilepsy. Through caring, educating and advocating for him, she has recognized firsthand the need for public and educational awareness, and access to quality care. “Epilepsy has diverse symptoms and characteristics that uniquely impact how one defines and experiences quality healthcare and education,” says Tall who founded two nonprofits in Central Florida – The Epilepsy Leadership Foundation and The American Epilepsy Nurses Association.

“Equally critical is one’s ability to have effective strategies, resources and tools to teach optimal physical and psychological well-being,” she added. As a nurse scientist, this is where she hopes to make an impact. She is currently investigating the use of simulation and gaming techniques as self-management interventions for adolescents with epilepsy and other neurological conditions.

“I have a never-ending quest to answer the ‘why,’” says Tall. “By building relationships and collaborating with UCF faculty and scholars from multidisciplinary fields, I am more prepared to discover the answers, make valuable contributions to science and advance practice.”

Today, she’s caring for her family and the community by advocating for epilepsy. In the future, thanks to the McKnight Doctoral Fellowship, Tall will make an even greater difference in the lives of patients and families in Central Florida and beyond through her epilepsy research