"We have several refugee communities in various areas that we live and there are certainly lots of cultural differences," Sulik said.
Sulik, as part of being selected for a Bush Foundation Fellowship, will visit different communities all over the world over the next few years to see firsthand how some hospital systems are able to serve indigenous communities by blending western medicine with traditional healing.
A similar initiative to blend western and traditional medicine started several years ago at Page Hospital in Page, Ariz., where up to 60 percent of the patients are Native Americans, including many Navajo Nation members. While the hospital doesn't employ traditional healers or medicine men on staff, medicine men do often come to the hospital to perform healing ceremonies or pray or bless the patient at the patient's request, said hospital CEO Sandy Haryasz.
For example, Haryasz said, if a Native American woman who follows traditional beliefs plans to have a vaginal birth delivery but for some reason must have a C-section that is not an emergency, sometimes a mother would request a medicine man come to the hospital to bless her before the operation.
"Our medical staff and nursing staff are extremely supportive of the spiritual side of the medicine men and healing ceremonies. They totally support patients' rights and respect their decision to have a medicine man come in," she said. "There's no issue between alternative medicine per se and traditional medicine."
Zephier said he knows of few Native Americans who wouldn't accept prayers of any sort — be they from a different tribe than their own or a different faith altogether.
"I've always welcomed any prayer of any faith when I've been in the hospital or for someone else. Prayers are prayers," he said.
But he added that having someone on hand to explain some of the patient's beliefs and traditions can help put everyone at ease.
"Many non-Natives don't understand where we're coming from and the things we do," he said. "Something like this could help."
Associated Press writer Amber Hunt contributed to this report.
Follow Kristi Eaton on Twitter at http://twitter.com/kristieaton .