No White Coat Needed for the Impact this Pro is Making in Healthcare PR


By Zoe Parris & Sitoria Townsend

Tarsis Lopez, a communications pioneer in his own right, is the newly promoted Associate Vice President of Reputation and Communications at Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly & Company. He joined Lilly in 2021 as Senior Director of Reputation Management and Communications.

Lopez recalls his interest in communications from a very young age and knew early on that he wanted to make an impact through his work. After graduating from Indiana University, Lopez soon learned that he could make a successful career doing what he loved – public relations.

“It’s always been part of who I am and what I’ve been interested in, and I think it was only really until I got to probably later in high school or college where I was able to understand that it was actually public relations for communications that was going to give me the opportunity to actually do that professionally,” says Lopez.

Lopez started working as a journalist for the American Veterinary Medical Association. After his journalism job, he took his first PR role as the communications manager for the Heath Information and Management Systems Society – a nonprofit dedicated to the healthcare information technology industry. It was there that honed his foundational PR skills before moving on to the agency world.

It was at Fleishman Hillard that he was introduced to more opportunities in working with healthcare and pharmaceuticals and he has since been working in this field for the last 15 years or so with career moves to Baxter International and Astellas Pharma. Being able to communicate and help others is one thing, but for Lopez it has been an impactful experience.

“It is a privilege and something that I continue to believe is a privilege because I see the impact of healthcare communications to inform the decisions people make to improve their health”, says Lopez.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

“Hispanic representation, especially within the public relations space, continues to be very, very small. And so, I recognized that from the start,” Lopez said.

Like many minorities, Lopez was met with the need for DEI in his career path and seeing the disparities firsthand. He recalls seeking out mentorship while coming to terms with the fact that to progress in his career, his mentors would not share his identity or experiences. He is the first Hispanic in Lilly’s 145-year history to work in a senior communications role.

“Quite frankly, I think the inclusion part is one that I’ve had to sort of create for myself over the course of my career.”

As a person of color in PR, he attempts to help others in his field understand the unique perspective he can bring. People with different perspectives and backgrounds hear messages differently. As a result, DEI has made Lopez’s career path much clearer by being a representative for people that do not have access to these spaces. With Lopez’s time at Lilly working in health communications, the need for representation has become more grounded in the past two years of the global pandemic.

When asked about how the relationship between the company and consumer can benefit from DEI, Lopez connects with the hesitancy in diverse minority groups, specifically African Americans and Hispanics, of vaccination. An understanding as to why these groups are opposing vaccines is integral to educating and communicating with them to increase vaccination numbers. Whether it means a more diverse testing pool, more diverse executives, or both, widening the perspective – as Lopez tries to do every day – is how companies can better connect with their consumers.

Final Words of Advice

“I don’t think that there’s ever been a time – or ever will be a time – where being a good writer, someone who really writes convincingly, writes crisply, who can really articulate something in a way that really helps resonate with the audience, is ever going to be something that’s going to be discounted.” Said Lopez.

Another piece of advice Lopez offers to students and young professionals is to build your network and not just in a single industry. Building a network can give you varying perspectives and connect you with people whom you can go to for questions in the future.

“I didn’t really recognize the importance of that until I was maybe 10 years into my career, and I can tell you that once I established that network of professionals, how much it helped accelerate my career. It really helped give me the guidance that I needed to get on the right path.”

Just as diversity can help companies better serve their consumers, diversifying one’s network better serves their career.

Sitoria Townsend
Zoe Parris
This profile was written by Zoe Parris, a journalism major, and Sitoria Townsend, a digital communications and media arts master’s candidate. They both attend DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois.

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