Bentonville medical school site revealed; new name is Alice L. Walton School of Medicine

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 22,721 views 

This rendering depicts an aerial view of the planned Alice L. Walton School of Medicine in Bentonville. (COURTESY POLK STANLEY WILCOX)

Officials backing a new four-year medical school in Bentonville disclosed the next steps in its development Thursday (June 30), including a new name, building plans and location.

The independent, nonprofit medical school is the Alice L. Walton School of Medicine. It was previously called Whole Health School of Medicine and Health Sciences from its original announcement in March 2021.

According to a news release, the medical school’s board of directors held its first meeting Thursday and voted unanimously to approve the name change.

The medical school is a standalone sister organization of Bentonville nonprofit Whole Health Institute, created in 2020 by Walmart Inc. heiress and philanthropist Alice Walton to make a transformative approach to health and well-being available to everyone.

According to the release, the school’s four-year medical degree will integrate conventional medicine with holistic principles and self-care practices. The school will focus on mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health and will include an attached clinic for clinical training in these concepts.

“We are honored to add Alice L. Walton to the School of Medicine’s name, highlighting our founder’s dedication to reimagining medical education,” Walter Harris, chief operating officer for Alice L. Walton School of Medicine, said in a statement. “The school will remain grounded in whole health principles and teaching philosophies, poised to attract the best talent and create a pipeline for a new generation of whole health leaders.”

Officials also revealed that the school would be built on approximately 20 acres east of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art along Northeast J Street, north of First Presbyterian Church. An affiliate of Walton Enterprises, the holding company owned by heirs of Walmart Inc. founder Sam and Helen Walton, assembled the four parcels over the past four years in separate deals worth a combined $11.75 million.

Click here for a site map of the medical school’s location.

The college will connect through the museum’s trail system to the Whole Health Institute, which is already under construction further south near the museum entrance on Museum Way.

School officials chose Arkansas-based Polk Stanley Wilcox as the lead architects for the medical school building project, which is still in the design development phase.

“The design integrates the building into both the site and the community, engaging the land as an abstraction of Ozark geology that embraces the principles of integrated medicine, and the holistic link between mental, physical, and spiritual well-being,” said Wesley Walls, a principal at Polk Stanley Wilcox.

According to the release, the four-story building will include learning halls and small group rooms, a library, clinical teaching spaces, administrative offices, a student lounge, theater, recreation and wellness areas, and more. Underground parking, as well as an entry-level parking area for visitors, are also part of the design.

Construction of the 154,000-square-foot building will begin in the spring of 2023. The college hopes to welcome its first class in the fall of 2025, pending accreditation. School officials plan to file a request for applicant status with Liaison Committee on Medical Education this summer.

Outdoor features of the rooftop park and surrounding site, designed by NYC-based design studio OSD, focus on holistically integrating the building with the woodlands of Crystal Bridges.

The design will support accessible pedestrian and bike networks. The landscape will include a woodland meditation and foraging and healing gardens, wetland, outdoor classrooms, urban farming space, and a rooftop terrace that connects to balconies, a cafe and an amphitheater.

“The School of Medicine is poised to be an inspiring learning environment that supports well-being, emphasizes innovation, and equips future physicians to be agents of change,” Alice Walton said. “We are excited to help pave the way for the next generation of holistic physicians and health professionals. This unique, site-responsive building will welcome students, staff, and visitors alike to explore this beautiful campus, serving a broader vision of enhancing quality of life in our region and beyond.”

The news release from the medical school did not disclose a project cost.