Health Check: Dr. John Lonks named top doc in infectious diseases

Dr. John Lonks is an infectious disease specialist at The Miriam Hospital.

As an infectious diseases expert, Dr. John Lonks wears many different hats at The Miriam Hospital.

You may find him in the travel clinic, looking up something for a soon-to-be traveler. He may be in the research lab, working on better treatments for certain infectious diseases.

Lonks said he has to know a little about a lot.

"You're looking at patients that have really severe infections inside the hospital," Lonks said.

Some require him to put on his detective hat. He said one his more complicated cases involved visceral leishmaniasis.

It's a parasite. The patient was from Brazil.

"He was in the hospital for at least a couple of months and it took a while to figure out and a couple of biopsies and some real top experts looking at the biopsies to make the diagnosis," Lonks said.

"As an infectious diseases doctor it's kind of interesting when people come with these weird parasites or malaria, but it's better to prevent it in the first place," Lonks said.

Lonks sees patients with everything from the rare to the more common.

"We see a lot of people with skin and soft tissue infections, infections of the skin and the legs, called cellulitis. It's common but some can get more complex," Lonks said.

But this top doc loves what he does and where he works, The Miriam Hospital, where he's been going on three decades now.

"Originally, I was from New Jersey. I went to medical school in New Jersey, and I came up to The Miriam Hospital to do my internship and residency," Lonks said.

It was here he became interested in infectious diseases.

"It can be a puzzle, but I think the thing that's different with infectious disease it -- not always, but a lot of times -- you can find what's causing it, treat it and cure it or definitely make it a lot better," Lonks said.

Lonks is one of five infectious diseases doctors named tops in this specialty by their peers. The others are Drs. David Lowe, Leonard Mermel, Glenn Fort and Staci Fischer.

A complete list of all 168 top docs in a variety of specialties is in the current issue of Rhode Island Monthly magazine.