Lizbeth Del Toro

Lizbeth Del Toro

Puerto Rican native Lizbeth Del Toro was always encouraged by her sharp-as-a-tack grandmother, who advised her to hang with the right crowd, do her chores, and stay focused on her grades and her studies.

Her grandmother passed away shortly after being diagnosed with cancer in 2010.

But Del Toro took her advice to heart as she obtained a bachelor’s degree in biology/biomedical sciences from the University of Puerto Rico, works as a graduate research assistant and expects to earn her master’s degree from the university in 2012.

“Last week I ended my master’s degree program, I just defended my thesis, and [my grandmother] wasn’t with me, personally, but I know that she was, spiritually,” Del Toro said. “I thought that I wouldn’t make it, because I was in was a rushed time—I was traveling, presenting some other awards for my job.

“Then I started thinking about my grandma and about all that she said to me before, and I said, ‘I can do it. I’m going to do it for me and I’m going to do it for her, I’m going to do it for my family.’ And I did it.”

Del Toro, who is assisting on an epidemiological study on HPV and HIV prevalence among Puerto Rican male drug users, wants to achieve even more.

That’s why she applied for and was accepted intoÉxito! Latino Cancer Research Leadership Training, which aims to increase research in Latino cancer disparities by encouraging master’s-level students and health professionals to pursue a doctoral degree and a cancer research career.

Like many students at the 2012 Éxito!Summer Institute, Del Toro was feeling overwhelmed by questions regarding doctoral programs.

“Before the Institute, I had a lot of concerns about research and starting a doctoral degree after finishing my master’s [degree]. However, hearing all the speakers’ stories, I understand that I can work one step at a time and, at the end, the only thing that matters is all the experience I have gained,” Del Toro said. “I think the institute was crucial because I could see that there’s time for everything.”