Today's Paper Newsletters LEARNS Guide Fish Story Contest 🎣 Asa Hutchinson 2024 Today's Photos Public Notices Digital FAQ Razorback Sports Puzzles Crime Distribution Locations Obits

OPINION | Carin Schoppmeyer: Alice Walton determined to raise Arkansas’ ratings for health

Fixing a broken system by Carin Schoppmeyer, April Wallace | April 2, 2023 at 1:00 a.m.
Alice Walton, Alice L. Walton School of Medicine (AWSOM) founder (center), breaks ground for the new school March 30 in Bentonville with Scott Eccleston, president of campus planning and facility management (from left); Walter Harris, president of health transformation; Dr. Sharmila Makhija, founding dean and CEO; Wesley Walls, Polk Stanley Wilcox AIA principal; Simon David, OSD founding principal and creative director; and Jim Daniel, WEI senior construction manager. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Carin Schoppmeyer)

"I'm committed to health transformation," Alice Walton, founder of the Alice L. Walton School of Medicine (AWSOM), told those gathered at the March 30 groundbreaking for the school in Bentonville. "I'm so excited about bringing art, nature, architecture, health and wellness and innovation together on one campus ... I'm particularly excited to explore that whole connection between art and healing."

Walton wants the school to help make Northwest Arkansas a destination for "world-class health and well-being. In order to improve lives, we need lower cost, better health and support for healthcare givers. Patients need to be activated to be stewards of their own health. We can all agree that we're spending too much on healthcare and we can all agree that every year the outcomes become worse. The system is broken and we have to fix it. Arkansas is (ranked) 48th out of 50th and we will change it."

"We have quality providers that are doing a great job but we need a new approach -- one that is proactive and connects patients' mental, physical, social and emotional health."

Sharmila Makhija, founding dean and CEO, said, "Our medical school will be a place of innovation and a bridge to the future within an environment of compassionate and inclusive medical education for our students."

AWSOM will offer a 4-year medical degree program that builds upon a traditional medical school curriculum to include the humanities and the arts, in order for our students to better understand the social determinants of health, to learn resiliency and ultimately provide the quality care our diverse community deserves and needs."

AWSOM will open and welcome its inaugural class in 2025, pending programmatic and institutional, accreditation, according to a news release. "Taught by leading medical practitioners and scientific minds, the first-of-its-kind medical school will help students rise to the health challenges of the 21st century."

Also providing remarks were Walter Harris, President, Health Care Transformation; Wesley Walls, AIA, principal, Polk Stanley Wilcox; and Simon David, Studio OSD founding Principal, Studio OSD.

Collaborators with the school on the project are:

Architect: Polk Stanley Wilcox

Landscape Architect: OSD

General Contractor: Crossland

Sustainability Consultant: SOM

Civil Engineering: McClelland Consulting Engineers

MEPF & LOW Voltage Engineer: Henderson Engineers

Structural & Building Envelope Engineer: Martin / Martin Consulting Engineers

Signage Consultant: Two Twelve

Food Service Consultant: JME Hospitality

NWA Gives

Giving opened Friday for the sixth annual NWA Gives giving event set for Thursday, April 6.

"Northwest Arkansas is becoming the most generous place on earth," organizers say. "Join us for 12 hours of epic giving on April 6 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and donate to one of the participating local nonprofits."

"In the five years since NWA Gives was created, 300 local nonprofit organizations have raised close to $2.8 million to support their vital community services."

Find nonprofit organizations to support at

For more event photos --

Columnist Carin Schoppmeyer can be reached by email at [email protected]

  photo  Laura Hendrix, Polk Stanley Wilcox lead interiors (from left); Wesley Walls, principal; Mandy Breckenrige, project architect; and Mark Hermann, principal, attend the groundbreaking for the Alice L. Walton School of Medicine. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Carin Schoppmeyer)
  photo  Chris Schnurbusch (from left), Carson Scott, Robert Adams and Jason Miller of Crossland attend the AWSOM groundbreaking Thursday in Bentonville. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Carin Schoppmeyer)
  photo  Dr. Libby Smith (from left); Dee Rodes; Dr. Chinni Pulluru; Mike Rolla; Elizabeth Clubb; Dr. Conrad De Los Santos; Sharmila Makhija, Dr. Sharmila AWSOME founding dean and CEO; Dr. Par Bolina; Dr. Jennifer De Los Santos; Dr. Christina Jenkins; and Dr. Katie Paul stand for a photo at the medical school's groundbreaking Thursday in Bentonville. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Carin Schoppmeyer)
  photo  Steve Mackin, Mercy president and CEO, and wife Kelly (from left) and Larry Shackelford, Washington Regional president, visit at the AWSOM groundbreaking March 30 in Bentonville. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Carin Schoppmeyer)
  photo  Steve Howe (left), AWSOM president of campus planning and facility management, stand for a photo at the groundbreaking. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Carin Schoppmeyer)
  photo  Jill Wagar (from left), Marissa Reyes and Austen Bailly of Crystal Bridges attend the AWSOM groundbreaking. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Carin Schoppmeyer)
  photo  Amy Wenger, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences vice chancellor; (from left), Lisa Stafford, AWSOM senior director of strategic partnerships; and John Spollen, UAMS regional dean, visit at the March 30 groundbreaking. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Carin Schoppmeyer)
  photo  Natalie Shew (left), Nate Green and Elizabeth Prenger attend the AWSOM groundbreaking. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Carin Schoppmeyer)

At a Glance - Groundbreaking

Who: Alice L. Walton School of Medicine (AWSOM)

What: School leaders welcomed guests as they broke ground for the "first-of-its-kind" medical school.

When: March 30

Where: J Street in Bentonville


NWA Gives

Who: NWA Gives

What: Area nonprofit organizations will benefit for the annual day of online giving.

When: Thursday April 6



Print Headline: Breaking ground on School of Medicine


Sponsor Content