As a 24-year-old, she complained of persistent pain in her hands. Her parents accompanied her to the doctor's, where she was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. However, she never let the disease get in her way. This diagnosis came before she had even discovered the structure of cholesterol. The disease would later cause terrible deformities in both her hands and feet. The following except from her obituary shows Dorothy's determination in the face of disability:
A woman of indomitable spirit, she refused to let even severe arthritis call a halt to her scientific activity. Only last year, although wheelchair-bound, she flew to an international crystallography conference in Peking, to the astonishment of the other delegates who attended it.
Dorothy was also a big supporter of education and very involved with social justice. She traveled from place to place after her discoveries and preached the importance of insulin for those with diabetes.