Research Recognition Award Recipients

The Professional Research Recognition Award honors significant work by a child life specialist, and the Student Research Recognition Award acknowledges research conducted by a student. Both awards celebrate research initiatives that contribute to theory and practice within the field of child life. Learn more about the award here.

Professional Research Recognition Award Recipients


Chelsea Gourley, MS, CCLS

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Chelsea Gourley lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. She completed both her bachelors and masters degrees at the University of Utah. After finishing her graduate work, she did a Child Life internship at UCLA's Mattel Children's Hospital in Los Angeles during the fall of 2017. She got her first job as a Certified Child Life Specialist a couple of months later at Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, which is where she is currently working. She works PRN, covering a large range of areas including the ED, same day surgery, PICU, CICU, NICU, medical imaging, children's procedure unit, inpatient surgery, infant unit, heme/onc unit, rapid treatment center, outpatient clinics, outpatient lab, and the playroom called The Forever Young Zone. Although she is PRN, she averages about 30-40 hours a week. She has learned a lot from working in so many different areas, and really enjoys getting to interact with several different patient populations. She loves the work she gets to do as a CCLS, supporting patients and families in the hospital. Her favorite thing about Child Life is helping children realize they have the ability to do hard things, and hopefully helping to make the medical environment as positive a place as it can be for them.

When she is not working, Chelsea can be found spending time with her family and friends, or visiting her boyfriend who currently lives in Northern California. She also loves to read, cook, and hike in the mountains. 

She is so grateful to have had the opportunity during grad school to work on this research, Children's distress during intravenous placement: The role of Child Life Specialists. She believes research is so pivotal to the field, and hopes to continue working on research throughout her career as a Certified Child Life Specialist.


Abbie Owens Lofgren, MS, CCLSII

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Abbie Owens Lofgren was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she currently resides with her husband and five month old son. She attended the University of Utah, where she received her Bachelor's of Science in Speech Communication in 2013. She then went on to graduate school to receive her Master's in Human Development & Social Policy with an Emphasis in Child Life in 2015. This published research is her thesis research that she completed during graduate school. Abbie has worked at Primary Children's Hospital for three years, primarily in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. She enjoys running, cheering on the Utah Utes, eating yummy food, and playing with her son Sven.


Student Research Recognition Award Recipients


Justin M. Petkus, MS, CFLE, CCLS

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Mr. Justin Petkus is dually certified as a Child Life Specialist and Family Life Educator, and is a Co-Founder of Pediatric Potential. In 2018, he was named Family Life Educator of the Year by the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) in special recognition of his research and practice.

Justin served children and families in both clinical and prevention based education roles within hospital and community settings. He has participated in program development, research projects, educator, and leadership development opportunities within these settings.

Ranging from North America, South East Asia, and the Middle East, Mr. Petkus has experience providing culturally responsive care to pediatric patients and families. In his latest assignment, Mr. Petkus co-implemented the first sustainable Child Life Service in Qatar, where he integrated pediatric psychosocial care practices into multiple systems of care within the state's public healthcare system.

Justin specializes in advancing outcomes for children and families within the unique cultural contexts of healthcare settings around the world. As an emerging researcher, he served as the primary investigator on a multidisciplinary study in a Middle Eastern pediatric emergency center. Mr. Petkus has presented on pediatric psychosocial care and the impact of adverse childhood experiences on the developing brain of the child at international conferences in South America and Europe. Justin is dedicated to fostering networks of resources and support for NGOs, hospitals, and clinics that enhance their ability to strengthen pediatric psychosocial outcomes.

Currently, Mr. Petkus is a PhD student in Global Family Health and Wellbeing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a Visiting Doctoral Candidate at the University of Luxembourg. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Child Development and Master's degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Central Michigan University in the United States.

Child Life Profession