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The California Pharmacy Student Leadership (CAPSLEAD) Program is a year-long leadership training program for select student pharmacists in California.  Beginning in 2003, this highly selective program brings together the best and brightest student pharmacists to participate in a leadership conference and work on a longitudinal project addressing critical issues that face the pharmacy profession. 

The CAPSLEAD Conference aims to provide student pharmacist leaders in California the opportunity to: 

  • Develop their leadership, teamwork, negotiation, and conflict management skills 
  • Build effective time and team management techniques
  • Discuss and research critical issues impacting the pharmacy profession

Participating Schools and Colleges



History of the CAPSLEAD Program

In December 2001, Clinical Education Consultants from Pfizer invited deans from the Western US to attend a special roundtable in New Orleans (as part of the ASHP meeting). California schools attending included: University of Southern California, University of the Pacific, and Western University. The roundtable was an opportunity to brainstorm ways Pfizer could better meet the needs of the schools. During this roundtable, a presentation was given by two of the pharmacy schools in the State of Washington regarding a successful leadership conference. The Washington conference was supported by the Rite Aid Corporation and aided in development by Michele Belsey, Vice President for Professional Recruitment.


Mary Wackerman, Director of Major Gifts, USC School of Pharmacy, gained support from USC’s Dean Timothy Chan, Pacific’s Dean Phil Oppenheimer, and WesternU’s Associate Dean Sam Shimomura to hold a similar conference in California. An invitation of participation interest was also extended to University of California San Francisco and eventually to newly opened Loma Linda University and University of California San Diego. For over a year, Michele Belsey, Elaine Wynn (Pfizer), and Mary Wackerman took a leadership role in defining the California Student Leardership project. Working with all six schools, they worked to outline the conference, including the structure of the sessions, objectives and outcomes, the host rotation between the schools, and how to accommodate the various schedules across six campuses. Pfizer and Rite Aid agreed to provide the major funding for the conference.


The first conference was held in 2003 in Pasadena and was hosted by USC. Sixty students – ten from each of the six schools of pharmacy in California attended. The students had the opportunity to interact with other pharmacy students, learn leadership skills, and how to build effective time and team management techniques. Each school set its own criteria for selecting students but all students were identified as student leaders. Susan Wilson, a nationally recognized speaker, who had facilitated the State of Washington program, presented Leadership with Class – Level I. Susan was the workshop facilitator for the first eleven years of the program. Students also heard presentations from pharmacy professionals on career opportunities and the importance of involvement in professional pharmacy organizations following graduation. Student teams were then assigned a patient care task. Teams began work on their assignment during the conference and concluded their assignment by making a presentation at either the CPhA or CSHP annual meeting.


In 2005, UCSF faculty member, Dr. Chris Cullander coined the conference name CAPSLEAD. The acronym stands for “CA” (California) “P” (Pharmacy) “S” (Student) “LEAD” (Leadership). In 2022, CAPSLEAD partnered with the California Pharmacists Association (CPhA) Educational Foundation to further enhance professional development opportunities.