Even among the many significant medical women who worked at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in the mid-20th century, Dr. Dorothy H. Andersen stands out. Her 1938 article “Cystic Fibrosis of the Pancreas and its Relation to Celiac Disease” in the American Journal of Diseases of Children was the first to correctly identify the disease. During her lifetime, Andersen became the country’s leading cystic fibrosis researcher and, along with her colleague Paul Sant’ di Agnese (P&S 1948), she later created the first tests to diagnose the disease.
Andersen was born in 1901 in Asheville, N.C. but after her Danish-born father died in 1914 the family moved to Vermont and she always thought of herself as a New Englander. After receiving her undergraduate degree from Mount Holyoke College in 1922, Andersen entered Johns Hopkins Medical School where she was greatly influenced by Dr. Florence R. Sabin, the school’s professor of anatomy. Following her graduation from Hopkins in 1926, Andersen went to the University of Rochester where she was assistant in anatomy to Dr. George Washington Corner for a year before undertaking a surgical internship in 1927-28.