Ari Boltax ’14 pursues dual passions
Published: Monday, October 29, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 29, 2012 14:10
Ari Boltax’s ’14 interest in veterinary medicine stems from her own experience with a childhood pet. After convincing her parents, she became the owner of a Maltese puppy when she was eight-wyears old. “We ended up only having it for about six days because she had a hypoglycemic attack, which is low blood sugar and it’s treatable, but it just scared my parents, so we decided that it was best that we not have a dog,” said Boltax.
She admits that, while she was probably sad at the time, she vividly remembers “being more interested in ‘Why did this happen to my dog, and why isn’t it going away? Why can’t I save it? What’s the title of someone who saves animals because nobody else should have this happen to their dog?’” she said.
Boltax, double-majoring in Chemistry and Biology, is also pre-vet. Because of the lack of a defined academic route for someone who wants to pursue veterinary studies at Brandeis, Boltax has found other ways to enrich her education on the subject. During the summer, she interned at New England Wildlife Center in South Weymouth, Mass., and she continues to work there this semester whenever she has free time.
Her internship consisted of eight-hour shifts five days a week, and her work ranged from “anything from admitting patients to feedings, to cleanings to doing x-rays and analyzing radiographs to administering medications and injecting medications and wrapping broken wings on birds,” said Boltax. She also prepared packages for rabies testing, did blood analyses and assisted with euthanizing animals that could not be saved.
A main responsibility Boltax had at the center was making decisions about whether an animal should be released or euthanized. For one of these situations, the veterinarian was unusually quiet during his examination of a cardinal, and at the end of his exam, he simply asked if she thought the animal should be euthanized.
After learning that the bird had a neurological problem, incurable by any veterinarian, she made the decision to euthanize it. “If it has three things wrong with it, then we usually euthanize because in the process of fixing one thing, we’ll probably just hurt them more trying to fix the second,” Boltax said. The technician suggested that the interns assist with the euthanasia administration on that particular day and told Boltax to choose an animal; she chose the cardinal she had seen earlier that day.
“To see an animal go from start to finish completely in my hands and in my care was something … exciting and it was interesting, and it’s something that I knew that I could handle, dealing with a death and deciding on a death that was really important to me. And I think that kind of defines my internship, how important it was and what a crazy experience I had,” Boltax said.
The types of animals admitted by the center depends on the time of year. Toward the end of August and beginning of September, the center sees a lot of squirrels and baby birds after a rainstorm. Other animals Boltax cared for include possums, hawks, geese, turtles, snakes, porcupines, tree frogs and hedgehogs.
She admits that Brandeis was not an ideal choice to study veterinary medicine because “there’s actually a really important class that’s required for most veterinary schools that Brandeis doesn’t even offer.” While she has had to supplement her love of animals and veterinary studies with her internship and volunteering at Northshore Animal League America, an animal shelter in New York, when she goes home, she’s more than satisfied with her decision to be at Brandeis. “I had no idea that I would fit in so well, that the community here was so like-minded to me and that the connections that I would make would be so valuable,” she said.
Being at Brandeis has also given Boltax the opportunity to pursue her focus of veterinary medicine with her love of teaching. Boltax is a teaching assistant for “Organic Chemistry” and will be a TA next year for “Organic Chemistry,” “Biology lab,” as well as a practicum she is currently designing.
Boltax is currently doing independent research for the Biology and Organic Chemistry Introduction Labs. “I’m basically trying to integrate the two curricula more and make it more cohesive for students who double up during their sophomore year. So, I designed an experiential learning practicum that’s actually coming out next semester,” she said.
“I want to incorporate [teaching] into my career somehow, so I’d like to pursue a combined DVM, which is Doctorate Veterinary Medicine Ph.D. program. And I’m probably going to be applying to veterinary school straight out of college, but I really want to be able to use that Ph.D. to teach in the future,” Boltax said.
She is excited for this project because “students can enroll in the practicum and they get to have real tangible contributions to sciences. They design and develop and carry out their own unique experiment,” according to Boltax.
Eager to combine her love of teaching and animals, Boltax said that although she has always known what she wanted her focus to be, she has finally learned how to combine her passions.