Dorothy Hansine Andersen was born in Asheville, North Carolina, on May 15, 1901, and was raised in Vermont and New Jersey. She attended Mount Holyoke College (A.B., 1922) and Johns Hopkins Medical School (M.D., 1926).
In 1926-27, she was Assistant in Anatomy at the University of Rochester, and in 1927-28, she was an intern at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York. In 1929, she joined the faculty of Columbia's College of Physicians and Surgeons, where she served until her death. Between 1929 and 1958, she rose from Instructor to Professor in Pathology. She was also Assistant Attending Pediatrician and Assistant Pathologist at Babies Hospital from 1935 to 1954, and Associate Attending Physician after 1954.
In 1935, she earned a Doctorate in Medical Science from the College of Physicians and Surgeons for her dissertation, "The Relation of the Endocrine Glands to the Female Reproductive Cycle." In 1938, she published a landmark article on "Cystic Fibrosis of the Pancreas and its Relation to Celiac Disease" in the American Journal of Diseases of Children.
In addition to cystic fibrosis, her other major research interests were cardiac malformations and glycogen storage. For her achievements, she received many awards, including the Mead Johnson Award for Pediatric Research (1938), the Borden Award for Research in Nutrition (1948), the Elizabeth Blackwell Award (1954), the Great Heart Award of the Variety Club of Philadelphia (1963), and the Distinguished Service Medal of the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center (1963, posthumously). She died of lung cancer at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City on March 3, 1963.