Dr. Cliff Ratliff Jr. was a director of nuclear medicine at Saint Agnes Hospital.
Dr. Cliff Ratliff Jr. was a director of nuclear medicine at Saint Agnes Hospital. (Baltimore Sun)

Dr. Cliff Ratliff Jr., a retired Baltimore internist who had been director of nuclear medicine at Saint Agnes Hospital, died Wednesday in his home at the Charlestown Retirement Community of respiratory failure.

The former longtime Ellicott City resident who earlier had lived in Catonsville was 94.

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"As a person, Cliff was a wonderful human being who was adored and loved by his patients and peers," said Dr. Ethan J. Speigler, who is director of nuclear medicine at Saint Agnes Hospital. "He was an excellent physician and a wonderful man to work with. He was a fixture here for many, many years."

The son of Cliff Ratliff Sr., a businessman, and Ethel Ratliff, a homemaker, Cliff Ratliff Jr. was born and raised in Morven, N.C., where he graduated from Morven High School.

After earning a bachelor's degree in 1940 from Duke University, he entered the University of Maryland School of Medicine, where he earned his medical degree in 1943. He completed his residency in internal medicine in 1946 at Saint Agnes Hospital.

From 1946 to 1948, he served as a captain in the Army Medical Corps and was the acting chief of medicine at the Army's hospital on Staten Island, N.Y.

Dr. Ratliff entered the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Medicine in 1949, where he studied for a year.

In 1950, he established a private medical practice in internal medicine on Edmondson Avenue in Hunting Ridge. He later moved to medical offices in Westview Mall.

He completed the basic course in nuclear medicine in 1956 at Oak Ridge, Tenn.

In addition to his private practice, Dr. Ratliff served as director of nuclear medicine at Saint Agnes Hospital from 1956 to 1990 and was the staff physician at Spring Grove State Hospital.

At St/ Agnes, "Cliff built the nuclear medicine department, ... which was then a relatively new field. He also started the ultrasound department," said Dr. Speigler.

"When I came here, he was near 70, and he told me 'Whatever you need to change or do, go ahead. Just keep me up to date.' For a man in his 70s, he was always reading, staying up on the latest developments and attending conferences."

In the field of nuclear medicine, Dr. Ratliff was known both locally and nationally, said Dr. Speigler.

"He really had no time for hobbies," said his son, Cliff Ratliff III of Marriottsville. "He'd go to work at 4:30 a.m. and not come home until 6 p.m. or 8 p.m."

"He had a large medical practice in the Catonsville area and would see patients at 5 a.m. on Saturday mornings, and they'd be lined up outside of the door," said Dr. Speigler. "He was very dedicated to them."

Dr. Ratliff brought a certain relaxing and tone to his practice and patients.

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"He was very folksy because of having grown up in North Carolina, and his patients adored him for it," said Dr. Speigler. "He always made them feel comfortable, even when he had to deliver bad news."

Dr. Ratliff was still making house calls into the 1980s.

"If a patient couldn't pay, he'd never turn them down," his son said.

For the last decade of his practice before he retired in 1990, Dr. Ratliff maintained a medical office at Rolling Road and U.S. 40.

When he retired, the nuclear medicine department was named the Dr. Cliff Ratliff Jr. Department of Nuclear Medicine in recognition of his work, said Dr. Speigler.

He was a charter member of the Maryland Society of Nuclear Medicine, serving as the organization's secretary from 1972 to 1973 and as its president in 1974. He was a trustee of the Society of Nuclear Medicine from 1966 to 1970, serving as president of its Mid-Eastern chapter in 1965.

Dr. Ratliff, who moved to the retirement community in 2005, enjoyed traveling and spending vacations at his Ocean City condominium.

His wife of 64 years, the former Helen Jane Shaffer, who was a registered nurse, died in 2009.

Dr. Ratliff was a member for more than 50 years of the First Presbyterian Church of Howard County, 9325 Presbyterian Circle, Columbia, where funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

In addition to his son, Dr. Ratliff is survived by a daughter, Barbara Ann Ratliff Wolkstein of Ellicott City; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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