Dr. Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana, a Western University of Health Sciences Board of Trustees member, last week was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education.

Dr. Melendez de Santa Ana, superintendent of the Pomona Unified School District (PUSD), will serve as a principal advisor to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Melendez de Santa Ana joined WesternU’s board in March. She has been superintendent of the Pomona district since July 2006, and in November 2008 was named Superintendent of the Year by the Association of California School Administrators.

"Rarely does someone come along who makes such a significant impact on so many people and organizations," Dr. Philip Pumerantz, president of Western University of Health Sciences, said of Dr. Melendez de Santa Ana. "As a member of our Board of Trustees, she has brought wisdom, experience and a philosophy of caring and compassion that resonates with WesternU’s core values. We are all fortunate to have her serve our national educational interests."

"I’m so grateful for the many community partners who have helped us begin the transformation of Pomona Unified," Dr. Melendez de Santa Ana said. "WesternU, led by Dr. Pumerantz, has been especially supportive of our work and our students."

Chief among the accomplishments forged by PUSD and WesternU during Dr. Melendez de Santa Ana’s tenure is the Pomona Health Careers Ladder. The program, in partnership with Cal Poly Pomona, brings PUSD sixth- and seventh-graders to campus to learn about the health professions and set them on a track to graduate from high school, earn a bachelor’s degree at Cal Poly, and enter post-graduate health sciences training at WesternU.

Melendez de Santa Ana holds a bachelor’s degree cum laude in sociology from UCLA. As a Title VII Fellow, she earned a PhD in language, literacy & learning from the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California.