Amy M. Sawyer, PhD, RN

Director, DNP Program

Associate Professor of Sleep & Health Behavior

Clinician Educator & Scientist, Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center

“Imagine a night…when snowfall tucks you in and the evening star kisses you asleep.  Imagine…tonight.” (Ron Gonsalves and Sarah L. Thomson, 2003)

As an advance practice nurse in Pulmonary Medicine, inclusive of a large sleep practice and laboratory, Amy Sawyer discovered that healthy sleep and disordered sleep are amenable to behavioral and pharmacological/device treatments and that nurses have a clear and impactful role to fulfill…to ensure that people understand that sleep is not a disposable activity in our 24/7 society but rather, sleep is a pillar of health that substantially contributes to health and quality of life.

Through our everyday health behaviors, we can improve sleep quantity and quality; I am committed to improving our management approaches to healthy sleep and sleep disorders.  This not only includes a profound commitment to extending our knowledge about sleep through science, but also translating sleep science to everyday best practices to ensure people ‘sleep well to be well.’


  • PhD, University of Pennsylvania, 2007
  • MScN, Johns Hopkins University, 1995
  • BSN, Millersville University, 1992


Inspiring students to develop and refine an intellectual curiosity is a pedagogical priority for Dr. Sawyer.  “Inquisitive minds bring forth the science and knowledge of tomorrow.”  Blending intellectual curiosity with scientific rigor ensures that pressing health/disease-related problems can be addressed to improve outcomes for people, organizations and society. Whether in the classroom or in teaching and mentoring settings outside of the formal classroom, Dr. Sawyer urges students to ask, “why” and “how can we do better and do more” – this approach to teaching encourages all students to engage in personalized learning by ensuring students are in the forefront of, and often leading, the learning environment. “Fully engaged learners are the practice and research leaders of tomorrow.” Dr. Sawyer not only urges students to ask questions, but to also use science, or evidence, to answer such questions.  Combining evidence with patients’ beliefs and values, and our nursing expertise, contributes to a practice that is evidence based and continuously changing and improving to meet the needs of our patients and communities in this dynamic era of healthcare.


Dr. Sawyer’s research focuses on health behaviors relative to sleep disorders. This line of inquiry emerged from her long-standing clinical practice in sleep medicine, where Dr. Sawyer became acutely aware of patients’ reluctance to use sleep-disordered breathing (i.e., obstructive sleep apnea, OSA) treatments and resistance to behavior change to improve sleep.  Dr. Sawyer’s research has identified distinct differences between adults who consistently use treatments for their sleep disordered breathing and those who do not; such findings led to the development and testing of a non-adherence risk screening index, I-NAP, and the design/testing of interventions to improve treatment use. “Sleep is a basic biological need; if sleep is diseased or curtailed, the sequelae are significant. As the science of sleep and sleep disorders is relatively young, treatments for sleep disorders and healthy sleep are continuously emerging. While such treatments may be highly efficacious, it is just as important to ensure that treatments are effective – effectiveness is largely determined by patients’ willingness and commitment to use a treatment.  To improve effectiveness, it is critical to understand health behavior from the patient perspective and with such knowledge, design and test health behavior interventions and delivery system innovations.”

Clinical Practice

Dr. Sawyer is jointly appointed at the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz Veterans Affairs Medical Center, where she directs evidence based practice for Patient Care Services (Nursing). Collaborating with staff nurses, managers, clinical nurse leaders, advance practice nurses, nurse scientists and the executive leadership, Dr. Sawyer is advancing the VA practice culture to be evidence based and instilling passion for continuously improving every day healthcare delivery to ensure “Veterans First.”  Dr. Sawyer is also a liaison between the School of Nursing and VA, mentoring students and colleagues in VA healthcare systems and practice and building the academic partnership between Penn and VA.  

Opportunities to Learn and Collaborate at Penn Nursing

Dr. Sawyer teaches graduate courses including data analytics and DNP project courses. She also teaches about sleep health and sleep disorders in the graduate primary care NP programs.  Dr. Sawyer mentors PhD, postdoctoral trainees and DNP students, including training opportunities in both Veteran and general adult sleep-disordered populations and healthcare system program implementation.

Selected Career Highlights

  • Editorial Board Member, Behavioral Sleep Medicine Journal (2018 - present)
  • Fellow, Penn Fellows Program, University of Pennsylvania, (2023-2024)
  • Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, (2023)
  • Member, Sleep & Respiratory Neurobiology (SRN) Program Committee, American Thoracic Society ATS, (2021-22)
  • Member, Sleep & Respiratory Neurobiology (SRN) Program Committee American Thoracic Society ATS, (2020-21)
  • Dean’s Award for MS/MSN/DNP Scholarly Mentorship, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, (2020)
  • The Samuel T. Kuna Excellence in Research Mentoring Award, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Division of Sleep Medicine (2019)
  • Dean’s Award for Exemplary Professional Practice, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (2019)
  • Editorial Board Member, Sleep Health, Journal of the National Sleep Foundation (Term II) (2017 - 2019)
  • Editorial Board Member, Sleep Health, Journal of the National Sleep Foundation (Term I) (2015 - 2017)
  • Sleep Research Society Trainee Education Advisory Committee (TEAC) Mentorship Program Mentor (2016)
  • Sleep Research Society Research Committee member (2012-15)
  • NIH Early Career Reviewer (2015)
  • American Nurses Foundation (ANF) Scholar (2011-13)

Accepting Mentees?

  • Yes

Accepting Fellows?

  • Yes

Featured Publications

  • An J, Hwang D, Sawyer AM, Arguelles J, Bae CJ, Chen A, Keenan BT, Kuna ST, Maislin G, Mazzotti DR, Pack AI, Shi JM, Watach AJ, Glick HA (2023). Cost-effectiveness of a 3-year tele-messaging for positive airway pressure use. American Journal of Managed Care 29(5): 256-263.

View all publications

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