Alice Walton Plans to Build Medical School in Bentonville

Alice Walton Plans to Build Medical School in Bentonville
Alice Walton announces the Whole Health Institute in Bentonville, which aims to address flaws in the U.S. health care system. (Marty Cook)

Alice Walton's nonprofit Whole Health Institute announced plans Thursday to put a new medical school in northwest Arkansas.

"The Whole Health School of Medicine will help medical students rise to the health challenges of the 21st century through a reimagination of American medical education that incorporates mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health, the elements of Whole Health, to help people live healthier and happier lives," Walton said in a news release.

The institute did not say where exactly where it would put the school, but said it plans to break ground on "a new state-of-the-art education and training facility in Bentonville" in 2022. It aims to enroll its first class in the fall of 2024. It said it will seek accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education.

The institute did not reveal a total price tag for the project.

Update: Gaudet tells Arkansas Business the School of Medicine will be "the first of its kind."

The project is related to the billionaire Walmart heir's Whole Health Institute, a multimillion-dollar center for holistic wellness also planned for Bentonville. Walton and her architect, Marlon Blackwell of Fayetteville, are scheduled to break ground next month on the institute’s 75,000-SF multiuse office and community space on the campus of Walton’s earlier pet project, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

"The creation of the Whole Health School of Medicine is a step forward in rethinking systems in our society to achieve better health and well-being," said Dr. Tracy Gaudet, founding executive director of the Whole Health Institute.

The leadership team for the medical school includes:

  • Founding Dean Dr. Elly Xenakis, formerly vice chair for education, the division chief of the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Division, and residency program director in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
  • Executive Vice Dean Colleen O'Connor, Ph.D, formerly associate dean, curricular affairs, at Duke University School of Medicine; 
  • Vice Dean for Education Dr. Adam Rindfleisch, formerly associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine and the medical director in Integrative Health at University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.

The institute said the school's curriculum "will infuse traditional and conventional medicine with integrative techniques and will include biomedical sciences, clinical training, medical entrepreneurship, research, and a capstone with Whole Health principles ingrained throughout."

The program is allopathic, meaning graduates will receive a doctor of medicine degree.

More On This Story