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Debra Brunk

Founder and Director

Debra Brunk, DNP, FNP-BC, is an expert in providing personalized, patient-centered Functional Medicine healthcare. 

Prior to starting Functional First, Debra had over 30 years of experience in healthcare including working in integrative and functional medicine centers, family practices across Chicago, urgent care centers, and local schools. 

This includes her work at the University of Michigan where she focused on supporting Flint’s Spanish speaking community during and after the Flint lead water crisis. 


She visited community centers, churches, and other areas where the Spanish speaking community congregated and led a group of community nursing students in sharing information on the symptoms, developmental impact, and prevention of lead toxicity.

Debra started Functional First for two primary reasons:

  • Give Patients the Care they Need: starting her own practice allowed her to give patients individualized, patient-oriented care rather than being forced to comply with insurance requirements and constraints on the care she can give, such as limiting the length of time she can spend with patients.

  • Treat Root Causes Rather than Symptoms: in mainstream medicine Doctors often treat symptoms with medications. Debra wanted to open a practice in Evanston that takes a Functional Medicine approach where she identifies her patient’s root causes so she can develop treatment plans that solve the downstream symptoms and improve patient's overall health and well-being. 

Debra is certified by The Institute for Functional Medicine and earned a Doctorate of Nursing Practice from the University of Virginia where she worked on and led the following projects:

  • Non-Medication Approach to Type II Diabetes:  was part of a research team that studied non-medication approaches to Type II diabetes including treatment plans focused on diet and lifestyle. 

  • Type II Diabetes Education:  led an outreach program to educate low-literacy migrant farm workers in rural Virginia how to prevent and treat Type II diabetes. 

  • The National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplement Training: while at the University of Virginia Debra was selected to receive training from the NIH on Nutritional Supplements. 

Debra earned her Masters in Nursing from the University of Illinois at Chicago where she focused on analyzing research data to study the use of alternative and complementary therapies among women with fibromyalgia.

Debra brings an attentive, empathetic approach to patient care that puts a heavy emphasis on genuinely listening to her patients. This helps her identify the root causes of health issues and develop custom treatment plans that improve their overall health and well-being.  

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