Dorothy H. Andersen, pediatrician and pathologist, was the first scientist to identify the disease, cystic fibrosis. Her research and discovery in 1938 of this, at that time, fatal disease led the way to modern day advances in the treatment and management of the illness.
A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, 1922, and the Johns Hopkins University Medical School, 1926, Andersen overcame the prevailing discrimination against women in medicine and spent most of her professional career as a pathologist at Babies Hospital, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York.
She continued her research on cystic fibrosis during the 1940s and was able to develop a simple, definitive diagnostic test for this genetic disorder. The test made it possible for pediatricians to immediately begin appropriate treatment, thereby greatly extending the lifespan of the cystic fibrosis patient. What had been a fatal disease in infancy became a treatable disorder, leading to the survival of young people with cystic fibrosis into adulthood.
During World War II, Dr. Andersen developed a training program for surgeons pioneering in open-heart surgery. She was also recognized for her path breaking research work in nutrition.
Throughout her career she was deeply committed to professional equality and refused to pattern her life according to conventional ideas of what was suitable for women.