Dr. Myron Wentz
An Urgent Sense of Mission
It began near the end of high school with a mother's plaintive statement of confidence. "My father died when I was 17," recalls Dr. Wentz, founder and chairman of USANA. "It was one of the most traumatic events in my life. I so much wanted his approval and I may, in a sense, be compensating for his loss even today. And yet, like other teenagers, I felt I hadn't taken enough time for him. When he died, of course, it was too late. I think that put a mark on me–that I was denied a father at a young age." That mark, difficult though it was to bear, was the catalyst for a lifetime of work and innovations in the field of human health and nutrition–ongoing advances are benefiting growing numbers of men, women, and children throughout the world.

The Roots of a Productive Life
Although his father was taken from him while still in high school, Dr. Wentz enjoyed an upbringing that many would consider ideal. "I benefited from a very loving home," he says, pointing out that his parents purposely spaced the births of their three boys years apart in order to give each of them their full attention during the crucial formative years. "Marvin is 14 years older than I am, and Charles was seven or eight years older. It was like having three 'only children.' I got a lot of attention as a child. My parents were very devoted to each other and to us."

Born in 1940, Dr. Wentz grew up in Napoleon, North Dakota, a small rural town of about 1,000 people. His father, Adam, and his mother, Bertha, were of German descent. They had been raised in the environs of Napoleon and both came from families of 12 brothers and sisters. Each of their families had left Germany to settle in southern Russia several generations earlier when the czars were encouraging German farmers to move into that part of their empire. The family stayed there until the rising threat of Russian nationalism convinced them to pack up and leave. They arrived in America and settled in North Dakota just before the turn of the century.

"These people preserved all their German culture, their food, and even their language throughout their sojourn in Russia and even after they arrived here," Dr. Wentz says. "I remember well the German dialect my grandparents spoke when I was a child."

While his industrious ancestors brought very little Russian influence to America, Dr. Wentz confesses to having a strong feeling for the Russian people–a feeling that has motivated him to fund medical research in Moscow and to engage Russian scientists to further his nutritional work at USANA.

Like almost everyone else in that area of North Dakota in those days, Dr. Wentz' father was a farmer. But unlike most of his contemporaries, Adam Wentz was also a businessman. "He wasn't content to just farm," explains his son, "so he and one of his younger brothers created some businesses. They started a hardware store, a furniture store, and they bought a John Deere implement shop and a Ford dealership." Because of these businesses, the Wentz family moved from their outlying farm to a home in town about six years before Myron was born. They were considered "sidewalk farmers" because they lived in Napoleon and farmed outside of town. The home was modest, and like many others in the community at that time, did not have running water or indoor plumbing.

The life of young Myron Wentz was happy, though not exceptional. "He was a serious boy," says his older brother, Marvin, "but he knew how to have a good time. He wasn't a star athlete, but he loved to play sports and lettered in all the high school sports. He was always into music, played in the band, and sang in the choir. He has a wonderful voice." The restless energy and high-activity level that would be characteristic of later years was already evident. In addition to music and sports, he served as a class officer every year and was an editor of the yearbook.

Marvin Wentz: "He wasn't an outstanding student in early grade school, but excelled in high school and when he graduated from college he got serious about doing something great." In recent years Dr. Wentz has been honored by his high school as Alumnus of the Year and by the University of North Dakota with their highest honor. Bertha Wentz was a very religious person, and she made sure that her sons went to church every Sunday and to other special meetings. In fact, she wanted Myron to become a minister. The family attended an evangelical church in the area. As a boy, Myron was sent to church camps every summer and was active as a Boy Scout leader.

It was a comfortable life in a loving home with good examples to follow. "My father was highly regarded as a man of generosity and compassion," Dr. Wentz states. "I remember, even years later, when I would go home from college to go duck hunting or whatever. When I would stop by a farm or a store, all I had to do was say I was Adam Wentz son and they would roll out the red carpet for me. It seemed that everybody in that area had been the recipient of my father's help or generosity, or they simply had a great deal of admiration and respect for him." "I think that made it even harder to lose him at such a young age. He died at 57 from heart disease. But as far back as I can remember he suffered from heart disease, having to go to hospitals and long-term care facilities."

Dr. Wentz saw degenerative diseases claim other members of his family. With only a few exceptions, he watched cancer and heart disease claim his many aunts and uncles on both sides of his family. Even his mother had her challenges. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in her 60's and went through surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. "She was a fighter, though–a real survivor," Dr. Wentz says, "She wasn't about to let cancer and its therapies kill her early." Cancer took a further toll on the family when it claimed his older brother Charles, at age 66. "Degenerative disease is definitely a problem in my family," he states.

Meeting the Challenge Head-On
Different people handle problems in different ways. Some surrender to them. Others deny or hide from them. And then there are those who make a personal commitment to fight their problems and beat them. Dr. Myron Wentz is one of the latter. He made it his life's work to meet degenerative diseases head-on and do everything in his power to conquer them.

He attended North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, where he earned a bachelor's degree in biology and pre-med in 1963. "It seems that most of my fellow students went into pre-med programs and then on to medical school," he recalls. "It was the thing to do. But I am not a me-too person. I decided that I was going to do something that was, in my opinion, better. Rather than going the route of medical school and being a front-office practitioner, I wanted to create scientific solutions–to provide the tools for medicine, rather than just use them."

Having decided not to go to medical school, he took a year off to map out the best path to reach his goal. During that time he worked as a microbiologist and decided that he wanted to pursue the study of infectious diseases. "So I enrolled in the graduate school at the University of North Dakota, got a part-time job as a bacteriologist, and earned a master's degree in microbiology." "Back at the turn of the 20th century, the five leading causes of death were all infectious diseases," Dr. Wentz says."The epidemic of degenerative diseases has developed throughout this century."

From there, the aspiring student–now mar ried to his college sweetheart, Jackie–went on to pursue a Ph.D. in microbiology at the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City. He chose this school because he was interested in immunology, and it boasted one of the strongest immunology departments in the country. Also, he was accepted to study under a renowned From there, the aspiring student–now married to his college sweetheart, Jackie–went on to pursue a Ph.D. in microbiology at the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City. He chose this school because he was interested in immunology, and it boasted one of the strongest immunology departments in the country. Also, he was accepted to study under a renowned professor in his field.

After earning his Ph.D. in microbiology, with a specialty in immunology (his dissertation was on tumor immunology), Dr. Wentz joined a pathology group in Peoria, Illinois. "Although my curriculum had included all the medical courses, it was unusual at that time for a Ph.D. in the medical sciences to be a partner in an M.D. group," he recounts. He served as the infectious disease expert for the group, directing all the microbiology and immunology lab work for three hospital laboratories in the Peoria area.

A Necessary Turn in the Journey
After three years with the group, Dr. Wentz saw an opportunity to make a deeper contribution to medical science. There were only two viral diseases at that time–hepatitis and rubella–whose diagnoses could be confirmed in the laboratory, so he decided to try his hand at developing diagnostic tests for the many other viral infections. He hoped that such tests could be completed and reported to clinicians before their patients left the hospitals–much more rapidly than was then the standard practice.

He left the pathology group in Peoria and returned to Salt Lake City, Utah, where a fully-equipped laboratory with cell-culture facilities stood vacant. "I sold everything I owned," he says, "got a $40,000 SBA loan, and bought the equipment needed to develop viral diagnostics. I knew that the large pharmaceutical firms had been attempting for years to do the same thing that I was trying to do, but for some reason they had fumbled the ball. I decided that I would grow all the viruses of diagnostic importance to man and prepare test systems for those viral diseases. And that's what I did."


Lawrie Whitmore
This site is copyright © Lawrie Whitmore.  ABUNDANT HEALTH  Parts of this site are copyright to third parties.
Designed and hosted by P G Technologies

Last Modified: 20th June 2008