2018 Newsmakers: Dr. Chelsea Grigery

Thursday, August 23, 2018
Dr. Chelsea Grigery, MD, pediatrician at SoutheastHEALTH Pediatrics
Photograph by Ben Matthews

When Dr. Chelsea Grigery, MD was in sixth grade at Sikeston Middle School, she entered the Southeast Missouri Regional Science Fair. Six years later as a senior in high school, her project about lyme disease that she completed as a mentee of Dr. Ed Masters, world-renowned lyme disease researcher, won third place at the International Science Fair in Phoenix, Arizona.

This, she says, is what catapulted her career in medicine. It provided her with scholarship money and got her into the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine, which led to a residency at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital. In 2014, Grigery came back to Southeast Missouri to work at Southeast HEALTH Pediatrics and to volunteer with the Southeast Missouri Regional Science Fair that gave her her start.

Grigery uses her daily interactions with children as a pediatrician to get them excited about the science fair.

“Being a pediatrician here, one of the things I will ask almost all my kids that are middle school and up is, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’” Grigery says. “Almost always I get a response that they want to be something in the science and technology field. When I ask, ‘What are you doing to prepare for that?’ they don’t really have anything. So science fair is a huge resume builder for these kids.”

This passion to provide opportunities for Southeast Missouri students that so positively shaped the trajectory of her own life drives Grigery to grow the science fair, reaching as many students as possible. And it’s paying off: Grigery’s co-direction has increased donor participation, due to her presentations aimed at raising funds for the fair, which she says she gives “to whoever will listen.” Grigery also implements a teacher’s conference with the help of Southeast HEALTH, in which teachers are invited to a meal and have the opportunity to learn about the benefits of participating in the fair.

Due to these and the Regional Science Fair Committee’s efforts, 2018’s regional science fair was the largest to date with 668 students participating, an increase of more than 50 entries from 2017. Perhaps the best accomplishment, however, was that a local student placed fourth in microbiology at the International Science Fair, the first person who has placed from Southeast Missouri since 2005.

This year, Grigery will be the director of the fair. She credits the all-volunteer Southeast Missouri Regional Science Fair Committee for the fair’s continued success. They make the opportunity to participate in the regional fair possible for Southeast Missouri students, she says, which can lead to even more opportunity at the international level.

“When you get to the international level, they give away over five million dollars every year,” Grigery says. “It’s huge. It’s a total game-changer, and it was a game-changer for me with the amount of scholarship money I got out of it … I would love for our community to back the science fair and understand that by investing in events like this, you’re investing in our youth and our future. The people who are going to your science fairs now could very well be your doctor ten years from now. I’m living proof of that.”