Marisha DiCarlo

Director of Health Communications

Arkansas Department of Health

Little Rock

Age: 37

Marisha DiCarlo

Take this fact from Arkansas’ chief of health communications: Huge hurricanes can be hazardous to your way of life, but sometimes they change life for the better.

Hurricane Katrina landed Marisha DiCarlo in Little Rock from New Orleans. “I evacuated with my husband and his family to Arkansas, and decided to stay,” she said not long after learning she was a 40 Under 40 honoree.

More than a decade after the storm, she directs internal and external communications for the Arkansas Department of Health, emphasizes a healthy and active lifestyle and works to shepherd Arkansans to a healthier weight. “It’s busy, interesting, fun and fulfilling, but I didn’t start out thinking I’d be doing this.”

At Loyola University in New Orleans, she dreamed of a literary life. But her first jobs were practical and health-related. “I used my skills in writing as a Louisiana Public Health Institute HR director,” she said. Then came Katrina, and Arkansas, and going back to school at UAMS for a master’s in public health and then a Ph.D. in health promotion. “One reason I decided to stay in Arkansas was that my old life floated away. I wanted to give back to my new home, and now I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

She has served as president of the Junior League of Little Rock and volunteered with the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Auxiliary.