Connect with us

Local News

Orem clinic uses genetic testing to treat mental illnesses



Every medical professional knows that in prescribing medicine, many factors must be considered. Every patient who arrives at a doctor’s office has unique DNA, weight, height, gender, diet, and other personal characteristics. When a doctor prescribes a medication, she is basing the drug choice on studies, years of experience and professional knowledge indicating what drug works best for a certain group of patients. If a patient, particularly with a mental health issue, uses a medication and symptoms do not improve, they may be prescribed a different medication, and perhaps another, and another, and the trial and error process can draw out for many months or years. At this point most patients abandon their hunt for a medicine match. What many patients don’t know is that modern advancements in medical testing have found a solution. Bristol Health has adopted pharmacogenetic testing as part of the initial evaluation of their patients.

Kelly Wosnik, nurse practitioner and owner, established Bristol Health in 2016. Wosnik wanted to break out of the “one size fits all” mentality and create a mental health practice that tailors to the needs of each individual. “Pharmacogenetic testing determines how your body will processes drugs. There can be a number of reasons why your body doesn't accept a drug. Maybe the liver pathways are slow or too fast,” said Wosnik. “At this point in my career I’d feel like I’m missing a step or prescribing with a blindfold if I didn’t do this testing with my patients. We take a saliva sample, send it to our lab, and then within two weeks we can know what medications you’ll struggle with and which ones are a good match.”

Pharmacogenetic testing eliminates months, maybe even years, of experimentation with medicines. Bristol’s testing can also discover genetic mutations, such as the MTHFR gene, which around 40% of the world population has to some degree. People with this gene will find it imperative to take methyl folate supplements because their body can’t produce enough enzymes or methylation. This mutation can present all sorts of physical and mental health issues. Often Doctors will prescribe SSRI’s to patients that claim they suffer from constant migraines, stomach aches, or insomnia, when in reality the MTHFR gene is responsible for these problems and the SSRI’s could be making things worse.

“When we initially started the practice three year ago, we were the only practice for a short period of time that offered pharmacogenetic testing,” said Tana Bagley, Bristol’s office manager. “Currently we are seeing more acceptance of this test in other practices. But many practices still reject the use of this test in diagnostics,” said Wosnik.

“Most Doctors don’t have a lot of training in genetics, so it’s not a comfortable area for them.”  Wosnik added. “We are hoping to change that.”

Currently, Wosnik is gathering research to show insurance companies that pharmacogenetics testing is a need for patients. This process will continue until health insurers recognize the value of this type of testing.

Wosnik also runs a non-profit organization for Cleidocranial Dysplasia. Wosnik herself has this birth defect and was born with deformed bones and a missing collarbone. The face of this charity is Gaten Matarazzo, one of the main actors on the Netflix hit show “Stranger Things” who also has the same genetic defect. Together Matarazzo and Wosnik help raise money for kids who suffer from Cleidocranial Dysplasia


To learn more about this type of testing visit or call 801-903-5903 for more information.