CHANGSHA, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- There may be many ways to improve surgical skills, but a surgeon in China has found unique methods that are easy to practice at home.
Zhou Jianbo, an ear, nose and throat specialist with Hunan Provincial People's Hospital, found help with two unlikely objects: grapes and cotton swabs.
Zhou uses ten-centimeter cotton swabs as "chopsticks" when he orders take-out.
A picture of Zhou holding two cotton swabs in each hand to pick up rice and ham cubes from his lunch box went viral on China's Internet.
"Did the delivery guy forget to bring him chopsticks?" one online comment teased.
The surgeon said he has been eating with cotton swabs for two years to train flexibility in his fingers to help when he picks up surgical knives.
Clumsy at first, he said eating a meal with cotton swabs took nearly twice the time. But now, using both hands, he can eat just as fast as with chopsticks.
China's major hospitals are a fiercely competitive market for medical professionals. They need to sustain the pressure of a heavy workload and continuously improve their skills to stand out as masters of the field.
At the age of 41, Zhou became associate professor, the second highest professional title for doctors in China. He specializes in cancer surgery and benign tumors of the sinuses, head and neck.
Beginner surgeons often use bananas and pork legs to practice, but Zhou uses grapes to help train his delicate finger movements.
He cuts open the skin of a grape and uses surgical needles and string to stitch up the cut without causing further damages to the grape or its fragile skin.
"This method trains coordination between the hands, eyes, and the brain," Zhou said. "Keeping the grapes intact requires you to precisely control the force of your fingers."
Zhou performs five to six surgeries on busy days, but finds spare time to practice on the grapes every week.
Besides these unusual practices, Zhou also does regular finger exercises when he is on the bus or watching television.
Like Zhou, many doctors in the hospital explore various methods to improve their skills, said Liang Hui, Zhou's colleague.
"All these efforts are aimed at improving medical skills for better and safer treatment," Liang said.