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Just Breathe: Dr. Boltax Has Your Respiratory Health Covered

  • Category: Pulmonary Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: St. John's Health
Just Breathe: Dr. Boltax Has Your Respiratory Health Covered

When patients struggle to breathe — whether due to chronic coughing, lung scarring, disease, or other causes — it can feel quite frightening and stressful. Dr. Jonathan Boltax is a pulmonary and critical care physician bringing his extensive experience to St. John’s Health with a vision of supporting patients with a wide variety of pulmonary conditions and needs.

After an 18-year tenure at the University of Utah, during which he helped to manage the program’s pulmonary critical care fellowship, Dr. Boltax arrived in Jackson Hole and began his role at St. John’s Health in November of 2023. “I’m here to care for anybody who has diseases or problems with their breathing,” he explained. “That includes chronic conditions, lung scarring, smoking-related complications, diseases of the chest wall, and all the way up to the throat. Any problems with the respiratory system.”

Jackson Hole sits at around 6,200 feet above sea level — translating to approximately 20% less oxygen in the ambient air than at sea level. “Living at altitude exacerbates any respiratory disease,” Dr. Boltax said. “Regardless of whether someone has respiratory disease from exposures, has developed idiopathic respiratory disease, or a history of smoking, they’re at an incredible disadvantage at altitude. There’s just less oxygen in their blood.”

In addition to the extra strain that low oxygen levels place on a patient with respiratory issues, Dr. Boltax said that supporting patients from more far-flung or rural communities can present challenges, too. “They don’t always have access in their communities to the tests we need, so we have to figure out how to work around that, prioritize different care options and logistics.”

At the same time, he said, he derives great joy in helping people find solutions so that they can stay in the area and do what it is they enjoy. “It’s been great getting to develop these relationships; coming from a huge system at the University of Utah, it’s fun being in a smaller hospital and really getting to know both colleagues and patients well.”

“It’s kind of like what you imagine a doctor was in the times before modern medicine,” he added. “That level of connection means that I have a responsibility that’s different, which is a new aspect of my job.”

At St. John’s Health, Dr. Boltax provides pulmonary consults for any patients who are admitted and have respiratory symptoms — playing a critical role on a patient’s care team and ensuring their best outcome.

Dr. Boltax also has advice for those hoping to avoid requiring his expert services. “The lungs are obviously the most important organ in the entire body!” he said with a wink and chuckle. “But in all seriousness, the fitter anyone can stay, the better they’ll tolerate living at altitude,” he said, highlighting the importance of regular physical activity for overall health. “And don’t smoke,” he emphasized.

“Don’t expose your lungs to things we know are bad for them. Especially for people working in construction and on job sites, wear masks when OSHA recommends to avoid injury to your lungs,” he said.

“People need to understand, if they want to live a long and healthy live at elevation, they really need to stay healthy and take good care of themselves throughout their lives. The body ages, and to maintain good breathing at elevation, they need to stay active their whole life.”