This series, Faculty Remembered, features profiles of former faculty members at P&S. The author of the series is a 1951 P&S graduate and former professor of medicine. He is now special lecturer in medicine and writer-in-residence at P&S.
FIFTY YEARS OR SO AFTER GRADUATING, P&S ALUMNI LOOK BACK at their student years through several distorting lenses. Most of the grinding and the stresses have melted away but a few things remain clear, mainly our teachers, those all-powerful beings who held our lives in their hands. Some are still remote, impenetrable; others vivid, impossible to forget. But there are such differences among them. Such a variety of personalities. Each so extremely different that you wonder how or if they functioned together as a faculty. Maybe they didn't. Maybe we see each one of them as making his or her clear and separate impression on each of us, each student, alone, one-on-one.
Dorothy Andersen, pathologist and pediatrician at P&S for 34 years, is a special case. (Every faculty member is a special case.) She was not blessed (perhaps one should say "not afflicted") with an intense, flamboyant personality. Growing up and schooled in New England, she always thought of herself as "a Vermonter." She, in great measure, had two characteristics that seem self-contradictory: a powerful drive for hard, steady work and extraordinary flexibility. In her long research career she successfully reinvented herself two or three times without stumbling, without interrupting the progress of her investigative work.
She started with some disadvantages: She was an adopted baby whose adoptive father died when she was 13. Her mother, a Yankee of old New England stock, must have done most things right, for her daughter grew up to develop a strong, calm, unostentatious personality that won her many loyal and affectionate friends. Attending a private school in St. Johnsbury, Vt., she graduated from Mount Holyoke in 1922 and in 1926 from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Leaning toward pathology as a career, she worked as instructor of anatomy at the University of Rochester School of Medicine (1926-27), completing a surgical internship there in 1927-28. She joined the P&S faculty in 1929, taking further pathology training with Beryl Paige, and rose through the ranks to become professor of pathology in 1958 and pathologist to Babies Hospital.
Her research began in 1929 with studies on the comparative anatomy of mammals then, for the next seven years, studying endocrine physiology of the female genital tract. Further projects involved glycogen storage disease, accompanied by what began as a sideline and turned into an exhaustive study, over several years, of congenital heart anomalies in human infants. This work yielded so much information that the Department of Surgery induced Dr. A. to give a series of lectures which became, over several years, the basis for the preparatory work that underpinned the development of open heart surgery at Presbyterian Hospital.
Dr. Andersen made her major contribution in 1938 when she identified and named cystic fibrosis of the pancreas and provided the basis for distinguishing that disease from "ordinary" celiac syndrome. During and after 1938, she helped study ways of finding and analyzing pancreatic enzymes of cystic fibrosis patients with a view toward defining the accurate choice of correct pancreatic enzymes for replacement therapy. During these years she became more and more involved in the treatment of patients. Working with pediatrician Paul A. di Sant'Agnese, she turned herself into an able clinician, treating cystic fibrosis patients in Babies Hospital. This was her greatest feat of reinventing herself, becoming both pediatric clinician and active, productive scientist.
Dr. A. won many awards. Quiet, reserved, and self-controlled, she was also genial, with many friends to whom she was notably loyal. Her main pleasure was owning and managing a farm in northern New Jersey hidden in the Kittatinny mountain range. Her chief bucolic pleasure was the expert wielding of saw and scythe. She became an expert carpenter who delighted in giving large weekend parties at the farm where her guests could work or not as they chose. Work or not they could partake of the huge meals she would cook for them on her wood stove.
A lifelong full-time smoker, always with a lit cigarette hanging out of her mouth an observer said the ashes "mostly became part of her costume" she died in 1963 of carcinoma of the lung. As everyone expected, she endured her illness alone, with stoical grace, a strong self-reliant woman who made light of obstacles.
The writer received useful information from William A. Bauman of the Department of Pediatrics and from a published memorial by Douglas S. Damrosch (Journal of Pediatrics 65:477-479, 1964).