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Walmart heir to help build new regional health system in Arkansas

Walmart heir Alice Walton's foundation has partnered with the Washington Regional Medical System in Fayetteville, Ark., to build a new regional healthcare system. 

The new health system will serve northwest Arkansas. The Alice Walton Foundation and Washington Regional Medical Center plan to work with Cleveland Clinic to support growth of healthcare services in the region. The three organizations will work together to help residents in Arkansas access specialty care. 

"This partnership is all about access, ensuring that residents of our thriving region have ready access to world-class health care services, including specialty care," Ms. Walton said in an April 25 news release. "We're bringing together three organizations with unique strengths — including Washington Regional’s excellence in serving this community, Cleveland Clinic's innovative care, and my foundation's focus on enhancing access — to offer a broader scope and scale of services to our region and beyond."

The organizations said the new partnership will help train the next generation of clinicians, build a regional health system that offers whole-person services and develop a partnership with Ms. Walton's soon-to-open Whole Health School of Medicine to establish an academic health system. The organization also said it plans to expand clinical services, increase specialty care services and strengthen the transformation to value-based care. 

"The creation of the regional health system will advance our mission and vision, including expanding our clinical, academic, and operational capabilities, and continuing to invest in our facilities," said Larry Shackelford, president and CEO of Washington Regional Medical System. "This partnership provides the resources to take our health care services to the next level to best serve our growing community."

Ms. Walton announced plans in 2021 to finance and build a medical school in northwest Arkansas, known as the Whole Health School of Medicine in Bentonville. The medical school is currently working to secure accreditation and authorization. It expects to admit its first class of students in fall of 2024.

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