Like Dad, Vietnam Played a Pivotal Role for Vanessa Kerry

Like father, like daughter.

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Vanessa Kerry (L) and her sister Alexandra comfort one another as their father, former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass), delivers a concession speech at Faneuil Hall Nove. 3, 2004 in Boston, Mass.
Vanessa Kerry, left, was inspired to start medical work globally after a visit to Vietnam where she first encountered true poverty.

Secretary of State John Kerry's relationship with Vietnam is well known. He fought in the war there, only to return to the states to become a vocal anti-war veteran. His decorated service was questioned, "swiftboated" if you will, during his 2004 presidential campaign against President George W. Bush.

But daughter, Vanessa Kerry, she has a Vietnam story of her own.

"I was one of those really dorky kids that knew in third grade that I wanted to be a doctor," she recently told a Washington audience. "I didn't realize I wanted to do global health until I had a really unusual and extraordinary opportunity to go to Vietnam when I was 14, and I traveled with my father on a trip."

[READ: Vo Nguyen Giap, Military Genius Who Drove U.S. Out of Vietnam, Dies at 102]

It was there, in Vietnam, where Kerry first encountered true poverty.

"Then, after school, I had the chance to start working in some of these places and the images of things that I saw in Vietnam just got compounded by work in Ghana, work in Rwanda, work in Kenya, work in Tanzania, and it really sort of began to percolate," she continued.

Kerry was inspired to continue to do medical work globally, she just needed to find the right partnerships, she said.

During her residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, the almost-first daughter says she got "lucky."

It was fortuitous she and a colleague heard about a discussion at Harvard's Kennedy School in 2010, hosted by former and current Peace Corps directors. While there she said she did something she had never done before.

"I stood up and I asked an anonymous question of the Peace Corps directors," Kerry recalled. "I asked, 'what do you think about sending doctors and nurses abroad to be medical educators.'"

Kerry remembered all three former directors immediately liked the idea, but the current director paused, finally saying yes.

"I don't think he expected us to shove our way to the front of the room and say, 'great, we'll see you in Washington.'"

[READ: U.S. Helps Vietnam Defend Fishermen Who 'Get into Trouble' With China]

Fast forward to 2013, Kerry is known as the founder of Seed Global Health, an organization that partners with the Peace Corps to send medical professionals abroad. In D.C., she sat on an Atlantic "Women of Washington" panel, beside her father's former political rival's daughter, Barbara Bush – who also works in the global health field.

"Their fathers have done some remarkable things," expressed moderator Susan Dentzer. "But we're not here today to talk about their fathers, we're here today to talk about the enormous, wonderful things these women have done in their own right."

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