At the heart of Frontier Nursing University is a talented and diverse community of students, alumni, faculty, staff, couriers and preceptors. Spotlight blogs feature members of our FNU community who are focused on the mission of educating nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners to deliver quality healthcare to underserved and rural populations.
Since she was a child, Dr. Debra Hunt, PhD, FNP-BC, GNP-BC-CNE wanted to pursue a career in nursing. Now, she holds a PhD, has extensive experience in leadership roles on several medical boards and associations, and is an associate professor at Frontier Nursing University (FNU).
A resident of The Villages in Sumter County, Florida, Dr. Hunt earned her Associate Degree in Nursing from Valencia Community College in Orlando in 1991 and finished her undergraduate education at Southern Adventist University in Orlando in 1996. That same year, she enrolled in the Family Nurse Practitioner program (FNP) at the University of Central Florida (UCF) and earned her Masters in Nursing in 1998.
During this timeframe, Dr. Hunt dedicated her time to working in private practice and volunteering in her community. Through these experiences, Dr. Hunt said she became disillusioned with healthcare access in the U.S., especially in regards to those with HIV.
“I was frustrated and even angry about the way people with HIV were treated by medical professionals,” she said.
While teaching part-time at UCF in 2004, Dr. Hunt expressed her frustrations with the American healthcare system with a colleague, who challenged her to “put her money where her mouth is.” She accepted this challenge when she was accepted into UCF’s PhD program.
Through clinical practice, Dr. Hunt met several patients with young-onset dementia. Inspired by these interactions, she conducted a qualitative study to explore the lived experiences of young-onset dementia. The study took three years to complete.
“The experience changed my life,” Dr. Hunt said. “Being immersed with people my age who were living with dementia and willing to share their experience was an incredible journey.”
Dr. Hunt’s dissertation resulted in two published articles and inspired her to become an advocate for individuals with dementia. She earned her PhD in 2011.
“I was told that pursuing a PhD would change my life, and it did,” she said. “My worldview has broadened, and I see opportunities in nearly every life situation, good or bad.”
In addition to her current work with FNU, Dr. Hunt also volunteers as a primary care provider in the Central Florida area on a PRN basis.
“Caring for patients at vulnerable times in their lives is a privilege,” she said. “As a nurse practitioner, I can spend more time working with patients and the community on prevention and healthy lifestyles. NPs get to know their patients and spend the time that is needed to really impact the lives of our patients and their families.”
Over the years, Dr. Hunt has served on several medical boards and associations, and has been recognized for her work. She is the founder and was the inaugural president of the UCF Doctoral Nurses Association; was appointed by then-governor Jeb Bush to serve the South Lake Hospital Board; has served as director and as vice president of the Florida Nurses Association; received the UCF Alumni Achievement Award and participated in the development of new nurse practitioner geriatric certification through the Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association. She also was heavily involved in emergency relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and regularly advocates for issues central to advanced practice nursing to legislators.
Dr. Hunt said her passion for advocacy in healthcare carries over into her work with FNU.
“In my Roles Course at FNU, I try to prepare our students to understand their roles and the importance of ‘having a seat at the table’ when it comes to healthcare advocacy and policy issues,” she said.
Dr. Hunt said she chose to work with FNU due to its reputation.
“Frontier’s reputation among other educators is very positive, even at a time when online education was suspect,” she said. “I enjoy working at Frontier because it affords me the opportunity to have more work-life balance.”
Outside of her work, Dr. Hunt enjoys spending time with her husband, three children and four grandchildren. She also enjoys volunteering, golfing, swimming, cardio drumming, watching local wildlife, fine wine and food.
Thank you, Dr. Hunt, for the extensive experience you bring as faculty member and for the excellent example you set for students at FNU.