From Burma to Fort Wayne: This Parkview police officer is a public servant and artist

When Htoo Doh became a Parkview police officer in January, he fulfilled a dream that he’d carried for years. Htoo was born in Burma, now known to many as Myanmar, and his family is part of a Christian Karen ethnic group that has been persecuted by the Burmese government since 1949.

“When I was a kid, I never expected to live through my 13th birthday,” he says.
“Burmese soldiers would come to the village to torture, rape, and kill our people. They would burn down our church and houses, and they placed landmines when they left. We lost half of our villagers.”

Htoo Doh and his family.
Htoo’s family decided to leave Burma and set off for Thailand. The journey was treacherous. Soldiers were patrolling the area, and there were hundreds of landmines, making it too dangerous for the whole family to continue. Instead, 13-year-old Htoo continued with a friend.

“We didn’t have any food,” he says. “We had to eat wild plants such as bananas and other fruits. It took us six days to get to the Thai-Burma border, where we met Karen soldiers who gave us food.”

Htoo didn’t speak the language, and he and his friend became separated. He was homeless from 1999-2002, and he sometimes slept in bus huts and rest areas.
“I tried to make friends and help with their chores in exchange for food,” he says.

Parkview Police Officer Htoo Doh works on an art piece.
Beginning in 2002, he stayed in refugee camps and an orphanage until he learned in 2008 that several countries, including the United States, were accepting applications from refugees who wanted to resettle.

“I chose the USA because I knew it was the best country in this world,” he says.

Htoo arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport on June 26, 2008, and took a bus to Philadelphia that night. A month later, he arrived in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.

“It was hard at first to start learning a new language and culture,” he says. “I would stay after church to learn basic English.”

Htoo Doh and his family.
One thing that sustained Htoo was his art. As a child, he would gather charcoal from burned trees and draw on rocks because he didn’t have art materials. His work often depicted violent scenes, as it was all he knew. For Htoo, art was a method of coping and self-expression.

“I was growing up away from my family, and I did not have many friends,” he says. “I would draw pictures of my family from my memories and the places I missed the most as a kid. Art was my only way to express my feelings.”

Art done by Htoo Doh, a police officer at Parkview.
In 2005, Htoo met a professional artist named Saw Kennedy, who helped him hone his skills, and he later enrolled in college with a major in fine arts. During that time, he befriended an English professor who was a retired police officer, which inspired a new career ambition. Htoo speaks six languages, and his professor recognized how helpful his language skills would be in the public safety realm. After speaking with several police officers about their calling, Htoo changed his major to criminal justice.

Htoo moved to Fort Wayne in December 2012, and, after earning an associate degree in criminal justice in 2013, he worked in the Fort Wayne Police Department records bureau until he joined Parkview in January. Htoo is based at Parkview Hospital Randallia.

Parkview Police Officer Htoo Doh works on an art piece.
“My road has not been easy,” Htoo says. “I have failed many times throughout this journey, but giving up was not an option. Failures break my heart, but they can’t break my spirit, and I am grateful for what I’ve accomplished in my life.”

He adds: “I want to give back to the community that gave me new life, because I grew up without security; a place to live; and a certain future. I want to become someone that my community can count on, and I want to make a difference in someone’s life daily. I want to be a part of… making this world a better place to live. I am so honored to be a police officer here at the Parkview Health Police Department.”