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Student Honored in Health Policy Essay Contest

Colleen Tapen (NHS

In her award-winning essay for, Colleen Tapen (NHS'13) says many small businesses have not taken advantage of a federal tax credit for providing health care to employees because they are unsure if they are eligible.

May 7, 2012 – A School of Nursing & Health Studies (NHS) undergraduate’s essay on a provision in the Affordable Care Act has earned first prize in a national contest.

Colleen Tapen (NHS’13) won in the undergraduate category for her essay, “Small Business Tax Credit’s Importance, and Difficulties in its Implementation.”, the Kaiser Family Foundation’s website for students and faculty interested in health policy, has hosted the national essay contest since 2007. The group announced its awards May 1.

Exceptionally Insightful

“Colleen’s essay stood out as exceptionally insightful, thorough, and well researched,” said Alina Salganicoff, vice president and director of women’s health policy at “It is inspiring to know that there are students with such strong interest and skills in health policy.”

Tapen, who is pursuing an independent study within NHS’ department of health systems administration, competed among 150 undergraduate students for first place, which earned her $1,500 and an iPad 2.

“I was so honored to win Kaiser's essay contest,” Tapen said, “and to continue Georgetown's legacy of success. I very much appreciated the judges' kind words and was thankful to my Politics of Health Care professor for encouraging me to apply.”

Small Business

Tapen’s essay examined a provision in the federal legislation that offers a tax credit to qualifying small businesses that provide health care to their employees.

She noted that many small businesses have not taken advantage of the credit because they are unsure if they are eligible.

“These business don’t have a lot of extra cash to hire an accountant to see if they qualify,” she said. “If they felt this tax credit wasn’t going to help them out, they didn’t want to begin the process.”

Tapen made recommendations to remedy the situation.

She said that the White House, the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Internal Revenue Service should make the rules clearer for small businesses. Tapen also recommended that the government and the insurance sector work together to show small businesses their coverage options.

Unparalleled Success

“We’re just thrilled with Colleen’s victory and our unparalleled success in this national contest,” said Patricia Cloonan, the department’s chair.  “Our program provides students with a foundation in health policy that gives them a strong voice on national health care issues.”

Since the essay contest began, Georgetown has produced more first- and second- place winners than any other university – including one student from the Law Center and three from NHS’ department of health systems administration.

Tapen isn’t entirely sure what she’ll do after she graduates next year, but long-term she says “I see myself at the intersection of health care and business.”

“I also have a keen interest in philanthropy and social innovation,” she adds, “which I hope to further explore in business school.”

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