The Plant Based Nutrition Movement is a collaboration between medical practioners and passionate community members committed to amplifying the message of plant-based nutrition’s power to prevent, halt, and often even heal our most debilitating chronic illnesses. Members of our Board of Directors of PBNM have dedicated time and energy to the organization. They are leaders in the Chicagoland plant-based nutrition world and share PBNM’s mission of fighting chronic disease with plants. 

As members of the Board of Directors of PBNM, each has agreed to:


Meryl Fury, M.S., R.N.

President, CEO

After years of formal study in nursing, human health, Meryl’s passion is to make a difference for people through whole food plant-based (WFPB) eating.

An experienced RN and trainer with strong organizational and team building skills, Meryl has her Masters degree in Nursing and holds certificates from Villanova in Project Management, the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies in Plant-Based Nutrition, and from Rouxbe Online Culinary School, Fork Over Knives Plant-Based Cuisine.

Meryl has a passion for plant-based nutrition for healing. She started her plant-based journey at age 15 when she gave up eating mammals. Over the years and through a lot of experimentation, Meryl came to realize that giving up all animal products was the healthiest option for her. Now, after years of formal study in nursing, human health, organizational and personal transformation and a meditation practice, Meryl’s passion is still to make a difference for people through whole food plant-based (WFPB) eating.

She is a transformational leader and a lifelong learner. Meryl’s goal is to spread the WFPB health message, with love and acceptance, universally.

Meet Our Board of Directors

Judi Bryan

Director, PBNM


Well versed in adaptation, from social media, to technology, her best adaptation was in healing decades long health issues with plant-based nutrition, regardless of age.

Personal health transformation motivates this plant-based enthusiast to this “never too late” lifestyle

Following decades of eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) and experiencing a number of health issues and ballooning weight as a result, it came as a rude awakening when the documentary Forks Over Knives appeared in Judi’s queue on Netflix and she decided to watch it. Not only did she choose to follow the dietary recommendations in the film, but one by one she saw her health issues vanish…and over the course of about a year, so did 85 lbs.

Having had such a profound experience, Judi has been a tireless advocate for the whole food plant-based lifestyle, sharing information, websites, documentaries, recipes, and anything she can, to help encourage others to check it out for themselves. In an effort to increase her own understanding of the impact of the whole food plant-based (WFPB) lifestyle, Judi completed the Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate program of the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies offered through eCornell in January 2017.

This all caused a course correction in Judi’s life. Having made dramatic dietary switches and experiencing the benefits firsthand, she was eager to find a way to reach out to others to help share the message about the benefits of WFPB eating when, in 2018, she happened to attend a presentation by Dr. Steven Lome, a plant-based cardiologist. Like many others in that gathering, she was blown away! After the presentation she simply told Dr. Lome “if there is anything I can do to help…I’m pretty good with the computer”. The rest is history. Within a couple of days, Dr. Lome had sent her a “wish list” of what he’d like done to launch his new organization … Plant Based Nutrition Movement. One by one, Judi set about completing each of those tasks. Dr. Lome has since moved on to practice in California, but Judi is still here plugging away for PBNM. A self-described “jack of all trades, master of none”, she’s been able to put in place and still manages the majority of systems we use at PBNM, including this website, both public-facing and internal.

Sharmila Vedam, CPA

Director, PBNM Treasurer

Passionate about the power of plant-based eating to heal, and sharing that information, especially with the Indian-Asian/Pacific Community.


Sharmila Vedam is a CPA/tax accountant by profession, but a passionate cook by choice. Due to her husband’s surprise diagnosis of a rare autoimmune disease (VKH) which caused blindness in both his eyes, he and Sharmila switched (cold tofu) to this WFPBNO (whole food plant-based, no oil) lifestyle in the fall of 2016. Her husband spent hours and hours researching this lifestyle and how it helps to reverse so many different illnesses. In the last 5 years, she has thrived recreating primarily Indian dishes as whole food plant-based zero oil versions and has mastered the zero oil cooking method. In their home (husband, herself, their daughters, inlaws/parents) everyone is very passionate about leading this lifestyle (even their college daughter cooks this way in school) and they educate/help folks to make the switch to this healthy lifestyle. They also run a private FB group where Sharmila shares all her creations and educational information about this whole food plant-based eating. Both she and her husband love teaching interested folks how to cook plant-based dishes without oil. Sharmila is certified in Plant-based Nutrition from T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies through eCornell, and is a PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) Food for Life instructor. She is a passionate vegan advocate and refuses to eat anything that is not vegan. Her biggest regret is not knowing about the cruelties of dairy farming earlier in her life.

Joan Davis, RN


Having discovered what her medical education did not prepare her for, Joan is determined to share her life-saving knowledge

As a master-prepared nurse with over 20 years of wellness experience, Joan thought she knew about nutrition—until her active, seemingly-healthy husband had a sudden, totally unexpected heart attack.

After a triple bypass, he was advised to go home and “keep doing what he’d been doing” which was discouraging, since we were already following a healthy lifestyle: regular exercise, normal weight, and a diet that most would consider healthy. It was only when they discovered the research showing the strong connection between heart disease and diet did they begin to feel more hopeful and confident he could regain control. They embraced a whole food plant-based no oil diet and he successfully resumed scuba diving, skiing, and all the activities he enjoys.

Meanwhile, Joan was gobbling up nutritional research studies as avidly as the delicious plant-based meals she and her husband were enjoying. She earned a certificate in plant-based nutrition and began volunteering for Dr. Michael Greger’s website. Using her teaching background, she also began developing programs that share the “why” and “how” of eating whole plant-based foods. She now presents a variety of programs at community colleges, libraries, and community organizations focusing on healthy nutrition and lifestyle. She is delighted to be part of PBNM, sharing the hopeful message of plant-based nutrition.

Carrie Bruno

Director, PharmD, DipACLM

Experienced Pharmacist Expands Her Learning to Help More People

After spending over a decade studying and practicing pharmacy, Carrie felt she had all the tools necessary to educate people on how to manage their chronic illnesses…until she started learning about plant-based nutrition. Adopting a whole food plant-based diet was just the start of her plant-based journey. It led Carrie to become passionate about learning as much as possible about embracing a healthier lifestyle. From there, she obtained a plant-based nutrition certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. More recently, Carrie earned her certification in Lifestyle Medicine through the American College of Lifestyle Medicine.  Carrie’s goal is to use all she has learned to truly help people prevent, treat and even reverse chronic illnesses rather than just manage them.

Ewa Stankiewicz


PCRM EAP food for Life Instructor, Healthy Cooking Coach, committed to changing lives “one meal at a time”.

PCRM Food for Life Instructor, Healthy Cooking Coach

Ewa Stankiewicz serves on the Board of Directors of the Plant-Based Nutrition Movement (PBNM) and on the Culinary Committee. Ewa is a certified Food for Life program instructor with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), co-founder of Healthy & Happy Living, Inc., and an authorized SaladMaster Dealer.

Through Healthy & Happy Living, Ewa and her husband/Partner, Sebastian, are dedicated to helping people learn how proper food preparation plays an essential role in nutritional cooking and a healthy lifestyle. Her amazing health journey started over seven years ago when she realized that conventional medicine and home remedies were not an answer to her chronic conditions, and she needed to seek out a healthy alternative. That is when she discovered whole food plant-based nutrition which changed her world completely. Ewa’s motto is “to help change people’s lives one meal at a time,” which has inspired others to cook up something better by teaching them the power of food for health.

John Gagliardi


Following his own health transformation, John’s goal is to educate and inspire others to do the same

John Gagliardi brings not only years of experience in traditional and new media, but also firsthand knowledge of the benefits of plant-based nutrition. In addition to creating and managing content for well-known catalogs and e-commerce sites, he has actively supported numerous non-profit organizations through his work with the Taproot Foundation, a volunteer organization that provides pro bono marketing services to NPOs.

A competitive runner and triathlete, John accepted his joint pain, inflammation, and frequent headaches as the inevitable effects of aging. That is until he transitioned to a mostly whole food plant-based diet. Powered by plant-based nutrition, John was amazed to find that he could train harder, recover more quickly, and require far less pain medication–he went from popping ibuprofen several times a week to just a few tablets a year. His goal is to educate and inspire as many people as possible to lead longer, happier lives through healthy eating.

Karen Bender


Always an educator, once she learned the power of plants, sharing that message became her passion!

As an Educator, Sharing the Healing Power of Plants Became her Passion

Karen’s interest in nutrition, food, and health began early in her career as an early childhood educator/director and continued later as a speech-language pathologist for special needs children.  As an educator, she tried to inspire healthy meals and snacks for preschool children. While raising two daughters, she continually adapted her family’s diets and looked for the healthiest options, which included cooking meals at home, belonging to a food cooperative, and receiving Community Supported Agriculture farm boxes.

Three and a half years ago, she and her husband had some health issues that inspired them to dig further into the research on the relationship between food and health. They discovered that their then current eating habits were not enough to improve their health and they knew they needed to strive for a healthier lifestyle. Their research led them to begin a whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet with remarkable results.

Three years ago, Karen started attending Plant Based Nutrition Movement (PBNM) monthly meetings. The information and support from those meetings were so motivating and valuable, and now she hopes to pass them on to others. Karen is currently one of the PBNM Cooking Coaches and has led some small cooking classes. She has also completed the e-Cornell Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate to add additional educational components to future classes and presentations, and has now earned the Plant-Based Ambassador Certificate.

Karen enjoys bike riding, nature travel, reading, family time, and of course cooking delicious plant-based meals.

Karen hopes to bring to the Board and the wider community her passion for this WFPB lifestyle while compassionately making a difference in people’s lives.

Janet Pearson


Janet’s passion is teaching others how to use real, whole foods to nourish and transform.

Passionate about sharing her love of cooking for flavor and for health!

“I’m Janet Pearson and I love to cook!” Janet’s passion is teaching others how to use real, whole foods to nourish and transform. Health starts with daily lifestyle choices and learning what to put on our plates. She’s studied with culinary experts, and lifestyle professionals, researched data, and read many plant-based cookbooks. Now she uses recipes as guides to create delicious meals that are economical, nutritious, satisfying, and easy to prepare.

Janet was raised in an Italian household. You could say cooking is in her blood going back to her grandmothers. One was from Poland and the other from southern Italy. One grandfather was from Yugoslavia and the other was from southern Italy and was also a farmer his entire life. Her dad was the youngest of seven, and her mom was the youngest of nine. Food was a family tradition and so was farming and cooking from scratch. She had an interest in cooking at a young age. She was canning tomatoes and making salads from dandelions that she picked from the farm at the same time her girlfriends were learning how to cook using hamburger helper and other box mixes. That was the 60s! As she raised her family, she learned cooking tips from the Food Network and copied restaurant meals which were always based on meats, cheeses, sauces, and spices (always with oils and butter).

When Janet attended Veggiefest in 2015, she listened to expert speakers and her life changed! She learned the truth about our food systems, our health, and the possibilities of disease prevention. She transitioned to a plant-based vegan diet over the next few years. She didn’t know what to do or how to do it but was determined to figure it out. Over the next two years, she enrolled in the Forks Over Knives Cooking Course, the Food Revolution Cooking Course, the Plant-Based Nutrition Course, and a Vegan Coach Cooking Course. It took a while to transfer a lifetime of cooking skills to new healthier whole-food recipes and techniques. Her one regret is that she didn’t hear about this sooner. It has been a fun adventure and now she enjoys sharing what she’s figured out with others.

Janet recently started a PBNM Group / PlantPure Communities POD in the Southwest Suburbs of Chicago with the goal of sharing this life-saving information with her local community. Join her to create dishes that you enjoy so you can have the health you deserve for years to come!