Catching Up with Mark Ratliff, Business Developer, Kaplan Medical

by Mark Ratliff, Business Developer, Kaplan Medical | January 26, 2022
Meet the Kaplan Medical Experts

Last year, we introduced you to our Kaplan experts so that you could learn more about our team and what drives them to stay passionately committed to medical education. This year, we’re taking an even deeper dive into their insights and opinions about healthcare education and what educators can do to truly help their students not only succeed on their board exams, but also to thrive in their chosen profession in medicine. We’re excited to welcome back Mark Ratliff, Business Developer, Kaplan Medical.

Meet the Kaplan Medical Experts


What are you most excited about this year in your personal and/or professional life?

The highlight of my personal life this year was selling our house and moving into a brand new one! Our kids are thrilled with the extra bedroom space and my wife and I are enjoying putting our stamp on a brand new house. 

Professionally, I’m excited to continue working with our virtual patient software, i-Human Patients. During the pandemic, we’ve learned how valuable the platform is for programs that are looking for creative methods for teaching clinical reasoning to nurses, physician assistants, athletic trainers, or physicians. It’s been really fascinating to be a part of the team this year and see how we decide to make updates and changes to i-Human Patients. We survey all of our partners and take their suggestions and concerns to heart.

What has kept you inspired during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

When you work so closely with health care providers, you can’t help but be inspired by their selflessness and bravery during times like these. I’m sure they have all of the same fears and trepidation that the rest of us have, but they continue to do their jobs without complaint. When you realize what our healthcare workers have gone through, it makes it easy to brush off minor inconveniences like wearing a mask indoors or maintaining social distance in crowds.

What about your role at Kaplan brings you the most professional satisfaction?

I love that I get to help solve problems. Whether it’s one of our university partners or one of our sales representatives, if someone has a problem I love being the guy they come to to solve it.


With all of the upcoming changes to the USMLE, how can educators keep their students on track when faced with unknown variables?

The key to staying on target for the USMLE with so many unknown variables is to focus on the science. Right now, students are preparing to take USMLE Step 1 as a Pass/Fail exam for the first time. Some students may be tempted to take it easy in comparison to their seniors, determining that they don’t need as high a score so they just need to study well enough to pass. I would discourage this line of thinking. 

Not only is it unclear exactly what a “passing” score on the exam will be, but also strong preparation for the USMLE Step 1 is known to improve performance on the USMLE Step 2 CK and Step 3 exams. These exams will have a three digit score and these scores will be vital to their future residency application. While it’s important to acknowledge the changes that are happening, it’s prudent to continue preparing as comprehensively as possible.

In your opinion, what is the #1 most important thing that medical educators can do to prepare their students for success on their board exams?

Educators need to instill in their students the concept that understanding is superior to memorization. While there are aspects of medical study that require memorization, it’s far more important to understand the key concepts that are taught in the basic sciences.

What are your thoughts on virtual simulation in medical education? 

The next big trend in healthcare is virtual simulation in clinical education. With the need for healthcare professionals who can manage patients in clinical situations in such high demand, virtual software platforms like our i-Human Patients platform will become essential for training such a large number of students over such a large quantity of content. 

Clinical education has largely depended on physical clinical training, but this typically leaves many conditions or diseases unpracticed as students are dependent on the local population for patients. With i-Human Patients, there is no limitation on the type of patient a student can see or the types of cases that are covered.

Are there any historic assumptions and misconceptions about medicine that you’d like to debunk?

The one myth that bothers me the most is that those of us who work in the medical field are “only in it for the money.” While there are certainly segments of the field that are lucrative and there are people who vie for those roles, the vast majority of people I’ve met are in it for all of the right reasons. They’re driven by a desire to help and to heal. They take their education seriously because they know that their future work will be serious.


What are your top tips for helping to build student confidence?

Building student confidence is challenging as many students begin their studies with a high level of anxiety about their upcoming test. The key is getting them to understand that they are not alone and nearly everyone is going through the same thing. 

At Kaplan, we encourage students to take a Diagnostic Exam at the beginning of their studies. Their score from this Diagnostic Test acts as a baseline to compare to as they complete more quizzes, exams, and practice tests. As they move through their studies, they have tangible proof of their improvement as they see their new scores outperforming their initial performance on the Diagnostic Exam. Seeing this growth gives them the boost of confidence they need to finish their studies eager to take their exam and move on with their careers.

Is there a tried-and-true strategy that you could recommend for medical students to manage their stress and mental health?

There is always going to be a level of anxiety when it comes to taking such important exams, so it’s important to communicate with students clearly about how they can manage the stress. One thing I instill in them is that progress will be incremental and they must have patience with themselves. 

One of the key benefits of our programs is our tracking and monitoring of student progress. If they take the recommended exams and quizzes that are in their study plans, they’ll be able to see their growth which can really snowball test confidence.

What are your recommendations for reaching disengaged or slipping students who are struggling with online learning?

Some students have adapted to online learning rather easily, while others find it hard to stay focused outside the typical classroom environment. For those students, I would encourage them to look outside their homes for alternative study environments: libraries, coffee shops, parks, etc. These active, vibrant environments might provide the “white noise” these students are missing from the traditional classroom.

Have you ever worked abroad in healthcare? Would you recommend the experience to students and educators to expand their knowledge and horizons?

I’ve been extremely fortunate to travel to several different countries for the purpose of educating young medical students and doctors on the pathway to a US residency. These trips have taught me so much about these intrepid adventurers as they endeavor to improve their medical education in the US. Many do so in an attempt to gain expertise in specialties that are rare or unavailable in their home countries. They are then able to return and spread that expertise amongst their colleagues.

Mark Ratliff has spent the past eleven years instructing and advising international students and doctors. Previous to his career advising doctors, Mark taught English as a Second Language in Northern Japan and TOEFL for Kaplan. As a Kaplan test-taking expert, Mark uses personalized study techniques and his extensive teaching expertise to motivate his students and help them achieve their Residency goals.

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