Officials with the planned Alice L. Walton School of Medicine in Bentonville are working through the lengthy accreditation process, a requirement the school must have in hand when it graduates its inaugural class in 2029.
Beth Bobbitt, a spokeswoman for the four-year school, said the accreditation team has already submitted two rounds of paperwork to the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, which will meet in January to determine the approval status.
A request for eligibility with the Higher Learning Commission — the institutional accreditor of post-secondary institutions and the gatekeeper of Title IV funds — is due in February 2023. That request is essentially a blueprint for the school and its operating plans.
In July, the school will submit an even more detailed blueprint to the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), the accrediting authority for medical education programs leading to the M.D. degree in the U.S.
Bobbitt said the school’s goal is to have an LCME site visit in Bentonville in early 2024 and be approved to recruit students by the summer of 2024. The college hopes to welcome its first class in the fall of 2025.
Bobbitt said there will be ongoing filings, reviews, site visits and evaluations from 2025 to 2029 to determine provisional and eventually full accreditation.
“Pending accreditation, the School of Medicine will be the first-of-its-kind, MD-granting program that builds on conventional medical teachings with whole health principles,” said Walter Harris, the college’s COO. “We’re committed to educational and inclusive excellence, and the accreditation process is a critical path to creating and maintaining the highest standards of learning and attracting the most qualified students, who will be agents of change in 21st-century healthcare.”
First announced in March 2021, 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.
The school will be built on approximately 20 acres east of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art along Northeast J Street, north of First Presbyterian Church.
Construction of the 154,000-square-foot building will begin in the spring of 2023.