BENTONVILLE — Tracy Gaudet has stepped down as founding executive director of the Whole Health Institute, the nonprofit group announced Monday.

Walt Cooper assumed the role of general manager on Monday, according to spokeswoman Beth Bobbitt. He was hired Jan. 3 as general manager of healthcare initiatives — overseeing planning, budget and operations, she said.

Walmart heiress Alice Walton founded the Whole Health Institute and Chopra Library in 2019 and announced in January 2020 that Gaudet would lead the institute.

Walton also announced a year later his commitment to build a medical school, also in Bentonville, called Whole Health School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Gaudet previously served as executive director of the Veterans Health Administration’s Office of Patient-Centered Care and Cultural Transformation, and also worked for the Duke University Health System and the University of Arizona Program of Integrative Medicine, according to her biography on the Veterans Administration website.

Gaudet resigned from his position at the Whole Health Institute “to pursue other interests,” according to a press release. She built a strong foundation for the new organization during her tenure, sharing her expertise and dedication to global health directors, he says.

Gaudet said she had no comment on her resignation when she arrived Wednesday.

“The leadership transition represents an important moment in the life of the institution and an opportunity to refine the approach to achieving the mission of providing access to comprehensive health for all,” Bobbitt said.

“Moving from start-up mode to longer-term strategies, some organizational changes are required to align with the updated strategic vision.”

Bobbitt did not respond to an emailed question sent Wednesday afternoon asking whether other staff members have recently left their posts.

“We are grateful for Tracy’s passion and foundational work,” Cooper said in a statement. “I am honored to pursue Whole Health Institute’s vision of improving well-being and quality of life, focusing on an approach to health that includes mind, body, and spirit.”

Prior to working at the institute, Cooper was responsible for health innovation and optimization at Walmart, the statement said. He co-founded and served as president of San Diego-based Cortica Healthcare, treating children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

The Whole Health Institute’s goal is to improve health and quality of life, reduce health care costs, and impact medical education and health care delivery, according to its website. .

When she announced the institute, Walton noted that the current system reacts to health issues when they arise rather than working on prevention.

The result is first nation in health spending and 37th in life expectancy, she said.

The Bentonville Planning Commission in April approved plans to build a facility to house the Institute. The proposed 77,000 square foot mixed-use community and office space is designed by Marlon Blackwell Architects and will be on the grounds of the Crystal Bridges Museum.