In early 2003, several Maryland Pharmacy Students participated in the community outreach project at a Vietnamese New Year Festival and Health Fair in Montgomery County, Maryland. They decided to form the Student Section of Maryland Public Health Association in March 2003. In May 2003, after a few months of planning, SMdPHA was recognized and adopted by the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy Student Government Association. SMdPHA was recognized as a Student Section of the Maryland Public Health Association by July 2003.
From a historical perspective, in January 2003, a pharmacy student, Hoai An Truong, developed an interest in pursuing a career related to public health and completed a Special Project with Dr. Magaly Rodriguez de Bittner, Associate Professor of Pharmacy. At the same time, another pharmacy student, Hoai Dinh, did a Special Project with Dr. Nicole Brandt, Director of Clinical and Educational Programs of the Peter Lamy Center. As part of the special projects, the two students worked together with Mr. Phu DuThinh, R.Ph., to create a questionnaire about health and medication uses among the elderly and translate some patient education materials into Vietnamese. They were also joined by other pharmacy students, Eileen Ripple and Renee Glazer, and pharmacists, Dr. Cherokee Layson-Wolf and Dr. Nhi Nguyen, to organize a Students of Pharmacy Community Outreach Table at a Vietnamese New Year Festival and Health Fair. While preparing for the project, the students realized that there are many unknown healthcare resources available. The lack of access to healthcare was evident in the Vietnamese community. Furthermore, they realized that this issue is not limited to the Vietnamese population. In fact, it is widespread throughout the general population and deserves attention. Besides that, they have developed a serious interest in public health and are interested in the possibility of pursuing a joint Pharm.D/M.P.H. Degree.
In March 2003, the students approached Ms. Margaret Hayes, Director for Student Educational Services and Outreach, for guidance and support to form a public health based student organization. Initially, they planned to call the organization “Students of Pharmacy Addressing Healthcare Disparities” (SPAHD). Along with Ms. Hayes, they contacted Dr. Donald Fedder, a Professor of Pharmacy and Medicine who is known for his expertise in public health. The students then became aware of the greater extent of the need to focus on public health at the University of Maryland Campus. Furthermore, there are genuine interests in public health from both the students and the faculty. As a result, Dr. Fedder suggested that the students ask the Maryland Public Health Association (MdPHA) to form a Student Section at the School of Pharmacy. The students drafted the missions and bylaws for this new Student Section. In May 2003, it was recognized and adopted by the Student Government Association as a student organization at the School of Pharmacy. In July 2003, the Maryland Public Health Association recognized the Student Section.