Alice L. Walton School of Medicine Announces Leadership Hires

Bentonville, Ark. (May 4, 2023) –Alice L. Walton School of Medicine announced today four new assistant dean positions including Dr. Ken Hopper-Assistant Dean for Health Systems Science Education, Dan Kallenberger- Assistant Dean; Admissions, Recruitment, and Whole Health Initiation, Dr. Angela Pierce- Assistant Dean of Whole Health Integration, and Dr. Quoc-Ahn Thai- Assistant Dean for Art of Healing.

In addition to the new assistant dean roles, the School has recently appointed seven new faculty members. The goal is to hire 12 full-time faculty positions with representation in all the basic science disciplines and four positions within clinical skills and simulation by the opening of the school in 2025. This founding faculty team will build the core curriculum for the new School of Medicine. Recent appointments include:

Dr. Gagani Athauda- Foundational Science Educator: Pharmacology; Dr. Lance Bridges- Foundational Science Educator: Biochemistry; Dr. Lance Forshee-Foundational Science Educator: Anatomy; Dr. Ayleen Godreau-Director Clinical Skills; Dr. Hector Lopez- Director, Anatomy Lab; Sylvia Merino, Director of Simulation; and Dr. Ian Murray- Foundational Sciences Educator. Visit the website for more open faculty positions.

Founded in 2021, Alice L. Walton School of Medicine will offer a four-year MD program that builds on conventional medicine with a compassionate, inclusive, and whole health approach. Pending programmatic accreditation by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the School plans to welcome the first class of 48 students in 2025 and will be located east of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. A Groundbreaking Ceremony was held on March 30, 2023 and construction is underway on the 154,000 square foot medical education facility.

“I am thrilled to welcome this diverse and dynamic team of AWSOM leaders who are passionate professionals with storied careers educating students and improving care delivery,” said Dr. Sharmila Makhija, Founding Dean and CEO, Alice L. Walton School of Medicine. “Each team member brings new perspectives toward the vision to advance medical education by creating a physician of the future who is focused on whole-person health.”

Ken Hopper, Assistant Dean for Health Systems Science Education

Dr. Hopper is the Assistant Dean for Health Systems Science Education for Alice L. Walton School of Medicine.  In this role, he will oversee student education in health care delivery, community health, population health, interprofessional skills development, quality improvement, historic payment methodologies, and value-based care models. Dr. Hopper’s early leadership career included hospital medical director roles and evolved to include national leadership roles promoting focused, practical health system re-engineering.  His passion, supported by 30 years of practice and leadership experience, is the design and operation of team-based care delivery models that help patient and provider alike find health and well-being.  

As a physician development coach at the Texas Christian University Burnett School of Medicine, Dr. Hopper mentored students and created and facilitated curricula on telehealth, value-based care, health finance, psychiatry, team-based care, interprofessional education, ethics, and more. Dr. Hopper previously served as National Medical Director of Integrated Care for Anthem’s Government Business Division where he led the creation and operation of a value-based intensive care management program. In addition, he implemented Collaborative Care in multiple medical clinics nationally. Dr. Hopper also served as Vice President of Clinical Innovation and legacy Chief Medical Officer of Humana’s Behavioral Health Division.

Dr. Hopper earned a Bachelor of Science from Baylor University and a Doctor of Medicine from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. He completed residency at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas and is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.  Dr Hopper later earned his MBA at The University of Texas at Dallas with medical emphasis in partnership with The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School.  He is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. Visit the leadership page for Dr. Hopper’s full bio.

Dan Kallenberger, Assistant Dean for Recruitment, Admissions, and Whole Health Initiation

Dan Kallenberger, MS, is the Assistant Dean for Recruitment, Admissions, and Whole Health Initiation for the Alice L. Walton School of Medicine. In this role, he oversees the development and implementation of an inclusive admissions process, student recruitment, community engagement, and pathway programs.  

Prior to joining the School of Medicine, Kallenberger served as the Assistant Dean for Admissions and Financial Services at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine (OUWB) in Rochester, Michigan, where he managed admissions, recruitment, and financial aid. During his tenure, he developed and directed a four-year financial wellness program, implemented strategies that reduced student debt, designed, and successfully executed diversity outreach initiatives, and increased in-state enrollment to its highest level. Before OUWB, Kallenberger served in the Office of Admissions at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he developed targeted recruitment plans and directed the holistic screening process. He was a key leader in the opening of Marian University's College of Osteopathic Medicine in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he last served as Assistant Director of Admissions, Marketing, and Recruitment.

A native of Indiana, he earned bachelor's degrees in economics, sports management, and marketing at Marian University in Indianapolis, Indiana. He went on to earn a master’s degree from the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky. Visit the leadership page for Kallenberger’s full bio.

Angela Pierce, Assistant Dean of Whole Health Integration

Angela N. Pierce, DC, PhD serves as the Assistant Dean of Whole Health Integration for Alice L. Walton School of Medicine. In this role, Dr. Pierce leads the development of curriculum surrounding whole health principles, self-care, and student-led whole health innovation projects. Dr. Pierce works closely with the other curricular leaders to integrate whole health principles into clinical settings, health-system science education, community-health, medical humanities, and the art of medicine.

Prior to this role, Dr. Pierce was a part of the executive leadership team at Kansas City University College of Osteopathic Medicine. As a member of the Department of Curriculum and Integrated Learning, she served in various administrative directorships spanning assessment, curriculum, and student success. She is a Harvard-Macy Institute Health Professions Education Scholar and has completed national Fellowships in science policy and advocacy. Dr. Pierce is also a Chiropractic Physician and physiotherapist with expertise in the management of chronic pain through techniques involving manipulation, mobility, and exercise, integrating mind-body therapies, and promoting brain-gut axis health. In addition, she is a stress-and pain-neurobiologist. She specializes in the neurodevelopment of the brain’s stress response system and the impact of adverse childhood experiences on diseases involving chronic pain, stress dysregulation and mood disorders. Her previous research demonstrates molecular mechanisms into the beneficial effect of exercise in restoring or improving the brain’s stress and pain response system following early life adverse events.

Pierce earned her PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas and her Doctor of Chiropractic from Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa. She also earned a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Bachelor of Science in biochemistry. Visit the leadership page for Dr. Pierce’s full bio.

Quoc-Anh Thai, Assistant Dean for Art of Healing

Quoc-Anh Thai, MD, is the Assistant Dean for Art of Healing at Alice L. Walton School of Medicine. In this role, he oversees curriculum elements focused on integrating the fine arts and humanities into student experiences and training for topics such as medical reasoning, ethics, and fostering therapeutic presence. As a liaison to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, a world-class museum that will reside on the same campus as the School, he will work­­­ closely with museum staff to integrate the science and art of healing.

Dr. Thai is an academic and clinical neurosurgeon who most recently served as Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurosurgery at Houston Methodist Academic Institute and Weill Cornell Medical College. Dr. Thai has practiced in a rural solo private practice, integrated community hospital networks, and large tertiary academic universities and trauma centers. He served as the Division Chief of Johns Hopkins Neurosurgery, National Capital Region, and was also an Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Dr. Thai immigrated to the U.S. from Saigon, Vietnam — an experience that inspired him to a pursue a medical career. Dr. Thai attended The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and completed his general surgery internship, neurosurgery residency, and cerebrovascular research fellowship at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he also served as a chief resident and faculty member. Dr. Thai is currently pursuing a Master of Divinity at Duke University’s Divinity School and is a Diplomate of the American Board of Neurological Surgeons, a Fellow of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. He is a consultant for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and his many honors include Surgeon of the Year Award at Johns Hopkins. Visit the leadership page for Dr. Thai’s full bio.

Dr. Makhija adds, “over the coming months, we’ll continue to focus on recruitment with the goal of hiring 150 full time employees by the School’s opening. Alongside our partners and the community, we will create a thriving learning environment and inclusive curriculum that teaches students to promote resilience, prevent disease, and restore health.”

Visit the website for all open positions HERE.

About Alice L. Walton School of Medicine 

Founded in 2021, Alice L. Walton School of Medicine will offer a four-year, MD program that builds on foundational sciences and clinical practices with a compassionate, inclusive, and whole-person approach to care. The program teaches students to support a person’s mental, physical, social, and emotional health to promote resilience, prevent disease, and restore health. The culture embraces self-care through offerings such as health coaching to empower students to care for their patients’ well-being as well as their own. The school’s unique curriculum, ARCHES, will use active learning methods to accommodate diverse learners. Currently, the School of Medicine is seeking programmatic and institutional accreditation with the goal of welcoming its inaugural class in 2025. Learn more at

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