Dorothy H. Andersen

Dorothy Hansine Andersen (1901 - 1963)

Dorothy Hansine Andersen (1901-1963) was an American pediatrician and pathologist.

Andersen is known for first recognizing cystic fibrosis as a disease and creating a test to help diagnose it in 1938. Whilst performing an autopsy on a child with coeliac disease, she discovered a pancreatic lesion. After researching similar autopsy reports, she noted a pattern calling the process ‘cystic fibrosis of the pancreas.’ (1938). Andersen then led a team to develop a clinical diagnostic test for cystic fibrosis, which involved an assay of the pancreatic enzymes in the duodenal juice (1942).

Eponymously remembered for her description of Andersen disease (Glycogen storage disease type IV) in 1956

  • Born on May 15, 1901 in Asheville, North Carolina
  • 1922 – Bachelor of Arts in chemistry and zoology at Mount Holyoke College
  • 1922-1926 MD, Johns Hopkins Medical School. Research work with Florence Rena Sabin (1871-1953) with first two publications on the lymphatic and vasculature in the reproductive organs of female pigs
  • 1926-1927 Assistant in Anatomy at the University of Rochester,
  • 1928 – Surgical intern at the Strong Memorial Hospital but denied residency on the basis of her gender. 
  • 1929 – Assistant in Pathology at the faculty of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University
  • 1935 – Professor of pathology at the the Babies Hospital at Colombia–Presbyterian Medical Center; Doctor of Medical Science, Columbia University.
  • 1948 – awarded the Borden Award for research in Nutrition.
  • 1952 – received the Elizabeth Blackwell Award for Women in Medicine.
  • Died on March 3, 1963 in New York; heavy smoker died of lung cancer aged 61

Medical Eponyms
Andersen disease (1956) [Glycogen storage disease type IV]

Glycogen storage disease type IV is an autosomal recessive disorder due to deficient activity of the glycogen branching enzyme. The accumulation of glycogen in the liver leads to fibrosis and destruction of liver tissue. Symptoms usually present in the first years of life and include retarded growth and hepatosplenomegaly. Progression to liver failure means that without liver transplantation the disease is usually fatal by the age of five.

Cystic fibrosis

1938 – Cystic fibrosis – initial autopsy report and first use of the term ‘cystic fibrosis of the pancreas’. The key pathological features that were noted:

  1. Pancreatic acini replaced by epithelium lined cysts and surrounded by fibrous tissue.
  2. Evidence of bronchitis, bronchiectasis, pulmonary abscesses and lobar pneumonia was seen in the lungs. The most common bacteria found was Staph. aureus.

Vitamin A deficiency was evident in the majority of patients who died before the age of one. Atresia of the pancreatic duct, cystic duct or small intestine.

1942 – Assay of the pancreatic enzymes in the duodenal juice. The measurement of trypsin levels was found to be the most reliable enzyme assay in the diagnosis of pancreatic deficiency. Both lipase and amylase assays were found to be less reliable.

1951 – Report of Walter Kessler and Andersen in 1951 of heat prostration in children with cystic fibrosis during the New York heat wave in August 1948. 12 children (7 with CF) were admitted. First report that children with CF were particularly susceptible to heat. Led Paul di Sant’Agnese (working alongside Andersen) to further evaluate salt depletion in hot conditions.

1953 – First report of elevated sweat electrolytes in cystic fibrosis. Sweat from nine CF children and eight controls showed chloride more than three times higher in the people with CF than in the controls.

1959 – These discoveries by Anderson helped LE Gibson and RE Cooke develop the sweat test for cystic fibrosis diagnosis .

Major Publications



Eponymous terms


Beth-Chasty-LITFL author 512-

Studied at University of Leeds-MBChB and Microbiology in Relation to Medicine BSc. British doctor currently working in Emergency Medicine in Perth, Australia.

BA MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM. Emergency physician, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.  Passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | Twitter |

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