BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A new medical school backed by Walmart heiress Alice Walton is scheduled to welcome its first class of students to Northwest Arkansas in 2024.

Whole Health Institute (WHI), a non-profit founded by Walton, Thursday announced plans for the Whole Health School of Medicine and Health Sciences (School of Medicine) in Northwest Arkansas.

The School of Medicine plans to break ground on the construction of a new “state-of-the-art” education and training facility in Bentonville in 2022 and plans to matriculate its first class of students in the fall of 2024.

The school is seeking accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education.

“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 Tracy Gaudet, MD, Founding Executive Director of the Whole Health Institute. The core leadership team for the new School of Medicine includes:

  • Founding Dean, Elly Xenakis, MD, 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, PhD, formerly Associate Dean, Curricular Affairs, at Duke University School of Medicine;
  • Vice Dean for Education, Adam Rindfleisch, MD, MPhil, 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.

According to Thursday’s release, the School of Medicine and Health Sciences will “collaborate closely with the healthcare community in Arkansas and beyond” and seek clinical affiliations with local inpatient and outpatient providers.

Discussions are reportedly underway for ongoing collaborations with local providers and members of the Northwest Arkansas Council Healthcare Transformation Division which includes Arkansas Children’s Northwest, Community Clinic, Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas, Northwest Medical Center, Washington Regional Medical Center, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Northwest, Northwest Arkansas Regional Campus of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks.

“Alice Walton’s vision begins here in Arkansas with the School of Medicine as an integral part of the growing and vibrant Northwest Arkansas community effort to become a premier healthcare destination,” said Nelson Peacock, President, and CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Council. “The ultimate aspiration is to provide access to an approach to health that works better for Arkansas and eventually for all Americans.”

Alice Walton announces “Whole Health Institute” in Bentonville